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quillity, which is the business of government, and the end of human society ?
S. 107. This designation of the person our author is more than ordinary obliged to take care of, because he affirming that'" the assignment of civil power is by divine institution,” hath made the conveyance as well as the power itself sacred : so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned; no necessity or contrivance can substitute another
person in his room. For if the “assignment of civil power be by divine institution," and Adam's heir be he to whom it is thus assigned, as in the foregoing chapter our author tells us, it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam's heir, as it would have been amongst the Jews for any one to have been priest who had not been of Aaron's posterity: for not only the priesthood in general being by divine institution, but the assignment of it” to the sole line and posterity of Aaron, made it impossible to be enjoyed or exercised by any one but those persons who were the offspring of Aaron: whose succession therefore was carefully observed, and by that the persons who had a right to the priesthood certainly known.
$ 108. Let us see then what care our author has taken to make us know who is "this heir, who by divine institution has a right to be king over all men.' The first account of him we meet with is p. 12, in these words : “ This subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power, not only in general, is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it, specifically to the eldest parents.” Matters of such consequence as this is should be in plain words, as little liable as might be to doubt or equivocation; and I think if language be capable of expressing any thing distinctly and clearly, that of kindred, and the several degrees of nearness of blood, is
It were therefore to be wished that our author had used a little more intelligible expressions here, that we might have better known who it is to whom the
assignment of civil power is made by divine institution; or at least would have told us what he meant by eldest parents : for I believe if land had been assigned or granted to him, and the eldest parents of his family, he would have thought it had needed an interpreter; and it would scarce have been known to whom next it belonged.
$ 109. In propriety of speech, (and certainly propriety of speech is necessary in a discourse of this nature) eldest parents signifies either the eldest men and women that have had children, or those who have longest had issue; and then our author's assertion will be, that those fathers and mothers who have been longest in the world, or longest fruitful, have by divine institution a right to civil power. If there be any absurdity in this, our author must answer for it: and if his meaning be different from my explication, he is to be blamed, that he would not speak it plainly. This I am sure, parents cannot signify heirs male, nor eldest parents an infant child: who yet may sometimes be the true heir, if there can be but one. And we are hereby still as much at a loss who civil power belongs to, notwithstanding this “ assignment by divine institution," as if there had been no such assignment at all, or our author had said nothing of it. This of eldest parents leaving us more in the dark, who by divine institution has a right to civil power, than those who never heard any thing at all of heir or descent, of which our author is so full. And though the chief matter of his writing be to teach obedience to those who have a right to it, which he tells us is conveyed by descent; yet who those are, to whom this right by descent belongs, he leaves like the philosopher's stone in politics, out of the reach of any one to discover from his writings.
$ 110. This obscurity cannot be imputed to want of language in so great a master of style as sir Robert is, when he is resolved with himself what he would say: and therefore, I fear, finding how hard it would be to settle rules of descent by divine institution, and how little it would be to his purpose, or conduce to the clearing and establishing the titles of princes, if such rules
of descent were settled, he chose rather to content himself with doubtful and general terms, which might make no ill sound in men's ears who were willing to be pleased with them; rather than offer any clear rules of descent of this fatherhood of Adam, by which men's consciences might be satisfied to whom it descended, and know the persons who had a right to regal power, and with it to their obedience.
§ 111. How else is it possible, that laying so much stress, as he does, upon descent, and Adam's heir, next heir, true heir, he should never tell us what heir means, nor the way to know who the next or true heir is ? This I do not remember he does any where expressly handle; but, where it comes in his way, very warily and doubtfully touches; though it be so necessary, that without it all discourses of government and obedience upon his principles would be to no purpose, and fatherly power, ever so well made out, will be of no use to any body. Hence he tells us, O. 244, “ That not only the constitution of power in general, but the limit, ation of it to one kind, i. e, monarchy, and the determination of it to the individual person and line of Adam, are all three ordinances of God; neither Eve nor her children could either limit Adam's power, or join others with him; and what was given unto Adam was given in his person to his posterity.” Here again our author inform us, that the divine ordinance hath limited the descent of Adam's monarchical power. To whom? “ To Adam's line and posterity,” says our author. A notable limitation, a limitation to all mankind : for if our author can find any one amongst mankind that is not of the line and posterity of Adam, he may perhaps tell him who this next heir of Adam is: but for us, I despair how this limitation of Adam's empire to his line and posterity will help us to find out one heir. This limitation indeed of our author will save those the labour who would look for him amongst the race of brutes, if any such there were; but will very little contribute to the discovery of one next heir amongst men, though it make a short and
mination of the question about the descent of Adam's regal power, by telling us that the line and posterity of
Adam is to have it, that is, in plain English, any one may have it, since there is no person living that hath not the title of being of the line and posterity of Adam; and while it keeps there, it keeps within our author's limitation by God's ordinance. Indeed, p. 19, he tells us, “that such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but of their brethren;" whereby, and by the words following, which we shall consider anon, he seems to insinuate that the eldest son is heir; but he nowhere, that I know, says it in direct words, but by the instances of Cain and Jacob, that there follow, we may allow this to be so far his opinion concerning heirs, that where there are divers children, the eldest son has the right to be heir. That primogeniture cannot give any title to paternal power, we have already showed. That a father may have a natural right to some kind of power over his children, is easily granted; but that an elder brother has so over his brethren, remains to be proved : God or nature has not any where, that I know, placed such jurisdiction in the first-born; nor can reason find any such natural superiority amongst brethren. The law of Moses gave a double portion of the goods and possessions to the eldest; but we find not any where that naturally, or by God's institution, superiority or dominion belonged to him; and the instances there brought by our author are but slender proofs of a right to civil power and dominion in the first born, and do rather show the contrary.
$ 112. His words are in the forecited place: “And therefore we find God told Cain of his brother Abel, his desire shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him.” To which I answer,
1. These words of God to Cain are by many interpreters, with great reason, understood in a quite different sense than what our author uses them in.
2. Whatever was meant by them, it could not be that Cain, as elder, had a natural dominion over Abel; for the words are conditional, “ If thou dost well;" and
so personal to Cain: and whatever was signified by them did depend on his carriage, and not follow his birthright; and therefore could by no means be an establishment of dominion in the first-born in general: for before this Abel had his “distinct territories by right of private dominion,” as our author himself confesses, O. 210, which he could not have had to the prejudice of the heir's title, “ if by divine institution” Cain as heir were to inherit all his father's dominion.
3. If this were intended by God as the charter of primogeniture, and the grant of dominion to the elder brothers in general as such, by right of inheritance, we might expect it should have included all his brethren: for we may well suppose, Adam, from whom the world was to be peopled, had by this time, that these were grown up to be men, more sons than these two: whereas Abel himself is not so much as named ; and the words in the original can scarce, with any good construction, be applied to him.
4. It is too much to build a doctrine of so mighty consequence upon so doubtful and obscure a place of Scripture, which may well, nay better, be understood in a quite different sense, and so can be but an ill proof, being as doubtful as the thing to be proved by it; especially when there is nothing else in Scripture or reason to be found, that favours or supports it.
$ 113. It follows, p. 19, “ Accordingly when Jacob bought his brother's birthright, Isaac blessed him thus; Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee.” Another instance, I take it, brought by our author to evince dominion due to birthright, and an admirable one it is : for it must be no ordinary way of reasoning in a man, that is pleading for the natural power of kings, and against all compact, to bring, for proof of it, an example, where his own account of it founds all the right upon compact, and settles empire in the younger brother, unless buying and selling be no compact; for he tells us, “ when Jacob bought his birthright.” But passing by that, let us consider the history itself, with what use our