« AnteriorContinuar »
great principle he maintained. “If,” he says, “whatever a king has a mind to do, the right of kings will bear him out in, (which was a lesson that the bloody tyrant, Antoninus Caracalla, though his step-mother Julia preached it to him, and endeavoured to inure him to the practice of it, by making him commit incest with herself, yet could hardly suck in,) then there neither is, nor ever was, that king, that deserved the name of a tyrant. They may safely violate all the laws of God and man: their very being kings keeps them innocent. What crime was ever any of them guilty of? They did but make use of their own right upon their own vassals. No king can commit such horrible cruelties and outrages, as will not be within this right of kings. So that there is no pretence left for any complaints or expostulations with any of them. And dare you assert, that *this right of kings,' as you call it, .is grounded upon the law of nations, or rather upon that of nature,' you bruto beast? for you deserve not the name of a man, that are so cruel and unjust towards all those of your own kind ; that endeavour, as much as in you lies, so to bear down and vilify the whole race of mankind, that were made after the image of God, as to assert and maintain those cruel and unmerciful taskmasters, that through the superstitious whimsics, or sloth, or treachery of some persons, get into the chair, are provided and appointed by Nature herself, that mild and gentle mother of us all, to be the governors of those nations they enslave. By which pestilent doctrine of yours, having rendered them more fierce and untractable, you not only enable them to make havoc of, and trample under foot, their miserable subjects; but endeavour to arm them for that very purpose with the law of nature, the right of kings, and the very constitutions of government, than which nothing can be more impious or ridiculous.”* And so again, “Bad kings indeed, though to cast some terror into people's minds, and beget a reverence of themselves, they declare to the world,
* Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 31, 32.
that God only is the author of kingly government; in their hearts and minds they reverence no other deity but that of Fortune, according to that passage in Horace :
'Te Dacus asper, te profugi Scythe,
Regumque matres barbarorum, et
Purpurei metuunt tyranni.
Ad arma cessantes, ad arma
Concitet, imperiumque frangat.' "So that if it is by God that kings now-a-days reign, it is by God too that the people assert their own liberty; since all things are of him and by him. I am sure the Scripture bears witness to both; that by himn kings reign, and that by him they are cast down from their thrones. And yet experience teaches us, that both these things are brought about by the people, oftener than by God. Be this right of kings, therefore, what it may, the right of the people is as much from God as it. And whenever any people, without some visible designation of God himself, appoint a king over them, they have the same right to put him down, that they had to set him up at first. And certainly it is a more godlike action to depose a tyrant than to set up one: and there appears much more of God in the people, when they depose an unjust prince, than in a king that oppresses an innocent people. Nay the people have a warrant from God to judge wicked princes; for God has conferred this very honour upon those that are dear to him, that, celebrating the praises of Christ their own king, they shall bind in chains the kings of the nations,' (under which appellation ull tyrants under the gospel are included,) 'and execute the judgments written
them that challenge to themselves an exemption from all written laws,' Psa. cxlix. So that there is but little reason left for that wicked and foolish opinion, that kings, who commonly are the worst of men, should be 80 high in God's account, as that he should have put the world under them, to be at their beck, and be governed
according to their humour; and that for their sakes alone he should have reduced all mankind, whom he made after his own image, into the same condition with brutes."*
These principles he fortifies according to his custom, not only by numerous quotations from classical literature, but by passages adduced with much reverence from the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, and adds to these, illustrations from the history of the middle ages, which exhibit an almost oppressive amount of erudition. These he intersperses with such withering denunciations of the base servility of his opponent, as no reader in the present day can regard but as blemishes on this incomparable performance, and ever and anon with reminiscent allusions to the circumstances of his own country, of singular power and beauty. Of these the following, occurring in the midst of an historical dissert ion, may be taken as an example:
Certainly if nature teaches us rather to endure the government of a king, though he be never so bad, than to endanger the lives of a great many men in the recovery of our liberty; it must teach us likewise not only to endure a kingly government, which is the only one that you argue ought to be submitted to, but even an aristocracy and a democracy: nay, and sometimes it will persuade us, to submit to a multitude of highwaymen, and to slaves that mutiny. Fulvius and Rupilius, if your principles had been received in their days, must not have engaged in the servile war (as their writers call it) after the Prætorian armies were slain ; Crassus must not have marched against Spartacus, after the rebels had destroyed one Roman army, and spoiled their tents; nor must Pompey have undertaken the Piratic war. But the state of Rome must have pursued the dictates of nature, and must have submitted to their own slaves, or to the pirates, rather than run the hazard of losing some men's lives. You do not prove at all, that nature has imprinted any such notion as this of yours on the minds of men: and yet you
* Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 47–49.
cannot forbear boding us ill luck, and denouncing the wrath of God against us, (which may heaven divert, and inflict it upon yourself, and all such prognosticators as you!) who have punished as he deserved, one that had the name of our king, but was in fact our implacable enemy; and we have made atonement for the death of so many of our countrymen, as our civil wars have occasioned, by shedding his blood, that was the author and cause of them.”* And again, in commenting on the expressed desire of Salmasius to see the secular domination of bishops re-established in England, he vents his indignation in the following language:—"0 villain ! have some regard at least to your own conscience; yemember before it be too late, if at least this admonition of mine come not too late,-remember that this mocking the Holy Spirit of God is an inexpiable crime, and will not be left unpunished. Stop at last, and set bounds to your fury, lest the wrath of God lay hold upon you suddenly, for endeavouring to deliver the flock of God, his anointed ones that are not to be touched, to enemies and cruel tyrants, to be crushed and trampled on again, from whom himself by a high and stretched-out arm had so lately delivered them; and from whom you yourself maintained that they ought to be delivered, I know not whether for any good of theirs, or in order to the hardening of your own heart, and to further your own damnation. If the bishops have no right to lord it over the church, certainly much less have kings, whatever the laws of men may be to the contrary. For they that know anything of the gospel know thus much, that the government of the church is altogether Divine and spiritual, and no civil constitution.”+
The“Defence of the People of England” concludes with the following noble exhortation :-“And now I think, through God's assistance, I have finished the work I undertook, to wit, the defence of the noble actions of my countrymen at home and abroad, against the raging and envious madness
* Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 118, 119. + Ibid. pp. 180, 181.
of this distracted sophister; and the asserting of the common rights of the people against the unjust domination of kings, not out of any hatred to kings, but tyrants: nor have I purposely left unanswered any one argument alleged by my adversary, nor any one example or authority quoted by him, that seemed to have any force in it, or the least colour of an argument. Perhaps I have been guilty rather of the other extreme, of replying to some of his fooleries and trifles, as if they were solid arguments, and iiereby may seem to have attributed more to them than they deserved. One thing yet remains to be done, which perhaps is of the greatest concern of all, and that is, that you, my countrymen, refute this adversary of yours yourselves, which I do not see any other means of your effecting, than by a constant endeavour to outdo all men's bad words by your own good deeds. When
laboured under more sorts of oppression than one, you betook yourselves to God for refuge, and he was graciously pleased to hear your most earnest prayer and desires. He has gloriously delivered you, the first of nations, from the two greatest mischiefs of this life, and most pernicious to virtue, tyranny, and superstition; he has endued you with greatness of mind to be the first of mankind, who after having conquered their own king, and having had him delivered into their hands, have not scrupled to condemn him judicially, and, pursuant to that sentence of condemnation, to put him to death. After the performing so glorious an action as this, you ought to do nothing that is mean and little, not so much as to think of, much less to do, anything but what is great and sublime. Which to attain to, this is your only way: as you have subdued your enemies in the field, so to make appear, that unarmed, and in the highest outward peace and tranquillity,
", you of all mankind are best able to subdue ambition, avarice, the love of riches, and can best avoid the corruptions that prosperity is apt to introduce (which generally subdue and triumph over other nations,) to show as great justice, temperance, and moderation in the