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There is no State of Men or Things, but is to be guided by the
Proportion of some Rule or Precept in the Christian Law.
1. That is, where there is no law to restrain us, we may
do what we please; but where we are tied up to rules and measures, we have no lawgiver, or fountain of religion, but God, who, in these last days, hath spoken to us only by his Son, who, as he is supreme in all things, so he is every way all-sufficient; and as by him only we can be saved, so by him only and by his Spirit we must be governed. To this purpose we believe that he hath taught us all his Father's will : he is 56 the Author and finisher of our faith ;" and therefore to him, and to an obedience to him, we must bring our understanding: we pray that his “ will may be done here, as it is in heaven;" and therefore he is perfectly to rule our wills here, for we are sure he does rule all above : we have no lawgiver but him,—no rule but his will, -no revelation of his will but in his word:-and besides this, we have no certain place, where we can set our foot. The laws of the Jews were either for them and their proselytes alone, or were adopted into the Christian code : right reason gives measures of things, but of itself makes no laws, unless it be conducted by a competent authority. The prophets were either expounders of Moses' law, or preachers evangelical; that is, either they called to obedience in things not moral; or, if they did, they only spake the sermons of the Gospel, and whatsoever was excellent in all the world, was but a derivation from the wisdom of the eternal Father; and all this was united into a system of holy precepts, at the appearing of the eternal Son: and since “ there is no name under heaven, by which we can be saved, but only the name of Jesus,” and he saves us not only by procuring pardon for them, but by turning us from our iniquities,—by efforming us anew,-by reforming whatsoever was amiss in manners and persuasion,-by conforming us to the similitude of the holiness and perfections of God, and brings us to glory by the ways and methods of
grace, that is, never leaves us till our graces are perfect, and even with eternal felicities, it follows that we must go to him,—that he must teach us and guide us,—that he must govern us and persuade us,—that his laws must be our measures, his wisdom must be our star, his promises our aims; and we may as well say there can be two principles, as that, besides him, there can be any eternal and supreme lawgiver. One is more than all the numbers of the world.
2. And if we look into the nature of his laws, we shall handle this truth as the people on mount Sinai did see thunder: all excellencies have as perfect unity as any one hath; and there can be but one justice, and it is the same grace of mercy which dwells in the bowels of all the good men and women in the world ; and of temperance there can be but one general measure; and unchastity is a certain prevarication of one excellency that is known to all the world. And, as for religion, since there is but one God, and he is to be worshipped as himself pleased, and to convey his blessings to us by what mediator, and by what instruments himself shall elect;-there can be in these things no variety, unless there be a plain deficiency in the means of the divine appointment. All the duty of mankind is in religion, justice, and sobriety; and, in all these things, God, by Jesus Christ, hath given us many laws, and besides them, he hath given us no other; we have but one Lord, and therefore but one lawgiver and measure of justice; we have but one faith, and therefore but one religion ; we have but one baptism, or solemnity of renunciation of the flesh, the world, and the devil, and therefore but one rule for our comportment: one measure of sobriety according to the unity of our nature, which, being made after the image of God, is one as God is one. If, therefore, our blessed Lord be a perfect lawgiver, his law alone must be the measure of our duty and obedience; but if he be not a perfect lawgiver, whither shall we go to understand the will of God? “ Master, whither shall we go? for thou hast the words of eternal life," said St. Peter': there is the question, and the answer too; and they, together, make the argument a demonstration. For if we can obtain eternal life by the words of Christ, then they contain in them the whole will of God; for he that fails in one, is imperfect,
and loses all; and therefore, in the words of Christ, there is a perfect provision for an entire obedience, because they are a sufficient way to life eternal.
3. The effect of this consideration is ---that all the measures of good and evil, must be taken by the evangelical lines. Nothing is to be condemned, which Christ permits; and nothing is to be permitted, which he condemns. For this is the great prerogative and perfection of Christ's law, above that of Moses; some things by Moses were permitted for necessity, and “ because of the hardness of their hearts;" thus divorces and polygamy became legally innocent, because a perfect law was too hard for that people, and, like a yoke upon a young ox, would have galled them, not subdued them; and if he had strained too hard, the silver cords of discipline would have been first broken, and then despised. But when Christ came, he gave perfect laws, and more perfect graces; he made the capacities of his obedience larger, and fitted the law and the subject by even and natural, and gracious proportions, and permitted nothing which his Father loved not: and now every plant, that God hath not planted, must be rooted up: and therefore this law must needs be absolute, and alone, and unalterable, and perfect, and for ever; and this appears infinitely upon this account, that although our nature is such, that it will always be growing in this world towards perfection, and, therefore, that it is imperfect, and our obedience will be imperfect; yet even this Christ does not allow, or positively permit; but commands us to be perfect, that is, to go on towards it, to allow nothing to ourselves either of crime or of suspicion, to be perfect in our desires, to be restless in our endeavours, to be assiduous in our prayers, never to think we have comprehended, never to say it is enough : and if our blessed Master does not allow of any imperfection of degrees, but thrusts the most imperfect forwards to perfection, it must be certain, that, in his provisions and his laws, there can be no imperfection, but he hath taken care for all things on which eternity depends, and in which God is to be glorified and obeyed. And, therefore, in no case, can it be allowed to any man or to any company of men, to do any thing which is not there permitted.
4. Quest. Upon the account of this rule it is to be inquired, whether it can be lawful for a prince or republic to permit any thing for the public necessities of the people, which is forbidden by the laws of Jesus Christ.
5. To this I answer with a distinction :-that if the question be, whether in any cases, there may be actual impunity, -there is no peradventure but there may; for sometimes it is necessary, as when a multitude sins : for then the remedy is much worse than the disease, and to cut off all would effect, “ ut nemo sit, quem peccasse poeniteat;" there would be justice without discipline, and government without subjects, and a cure without remedy. And therefore it is, that princes, in the mutinies of armies, or in the rebellion of their people, use to cut off the heads of offenders, or decimate the legions, as Cæsar and Germanicus did: but if it be part of the people, though a considerable part, and the action highly criminal, we find great examples, that executions have been done by subjects, by the innocent part, and then all the offenders suffered. Thus it happened in the mutiny of Cæcina's legions, and their defection to the Ubii, the innocent part cut off all the rebels : and thus it was commanded by Moses, who punished all them who worshipped the golden calf, by the sword of the Levites; he set every man's hand against his brother, and none of the criminals did escape. But sometimes it is impossible to punish all; and, very often, the evil would be more than the good. For, in all penal laws and inflictions, although there be much of vindictive justice, yet this justice is but a handmaid to government and correction. When
When revenge is not also discipline, then it is no government, unless tyranny be the name of it. So that, in such cases,
may be lawful to spare some who need it indeed, but deserve it not.
6. But if, by impunity, be meant a legal impunity, it must either mear, that a law shall warrant the action, or that it shall, before-hand, promise indemnity: if it warrant the action, which the evangelical law hath forbidden, it is like the laws of Omri, it is statutum non bonum,' and erects a government against the law of Christ : if it condemns the action, but promises indemnity, it disparages itself, and confesses its own weakness : but as the first can never be lawful, so neither can the second ever be made so, but with these cautions.
Cautions to be observed in civil permissions of an unlawful act or state.
7. (1.) That the thing so permitted, be, in the present constitution of affairs, necessary; and yet will not be without the evil appendage. Thus it is necessary, that in all communities of men, there be borrowing and lending; but if it cannot be without usury, the commonwealth might promise not to punish it; though, of itself, it were uncharitable, and consequently unlawful. For it is either lawful, or else it is unlawful, for being against justice or against charity. If it be against justice, the commonwealth, by permitting it, makes it just; for as it is in the economy of the world, the decree of God doth establish the vicissitudes of night and day for ever : but the sun, by looking on a point, not only signifies, but also makes the little portions of time, and divides them into hours; but men, coming with their little arts and instruments, make them to be understood, and so become the sun's interpreters; so it is in the matter of justice, whose great return and firm establishments are made by God, and some rules given for the great measures of it; and we, from his laws, know just and unjust, as we understand day and night: but the laws of princes, and the contracts of men, like the sun, make the little measures, and divide the great proportions into minutes of justice and fair intercourse; and the divines and lawyers go yet lower, and they become expounders of those measures, and set up dials and instruments of notice, by which we understand the proportion and obligation of the law, and the lines of justice : just and unjust we love or hate respectively by our warrant from God; and from him also we are taught to make the general lines of it; as, Do what you would be done to,-restore the pledge,hurt no man,-rob not your neighbour of his rights,--make no fraudulent contracts,-no unjust bargains : but then what are his rights, and what are not; what is fraudulent, and what is fair; in what he hath power, in what he hath none, is to be determined by the laws of men.
So that if a commonwealth permits an usurious exchange or contract, it is not unjust, because the laws are the particular measures of justice and contracts, and therefore may well promise impunity, where she makes innocence, as to the matter of justice. But if usury be unlawful, because it is uncha