Page images
PDF
EPUB

St. Peter, on the same subject, has the same view before him, (iv, 14. 15.) as he had before observed; what glory is it, if when ye shall be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently? St. Paul's second argument therefore is not a mere prudential motive to obedience; but it teaches us that we shall not only suffer, but deserve to suffer, which every Christian ought to fear more than the evil itself. The steps of the argument are, they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, that is, punishment or judgment; the reason follows: for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil: hence we infer that by good works, obedience is especially meant; and by evil works, resistance : else his reason will not contain the proof of his doctrine : yet the Apostle is now disputing with those who considered themselves justified by the gospel in not thinking the resistance here spoken of an evil work. Does he then beg this most material point ? No: but from his first argument, that whoever resists the power resisteth the ordinance of God, he proves resistance to be an evil work: he then shows the prince's power over such workers of iniquity; wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. This was a strange assertion, if understood of good works in general: St. Paul knew that to obey the gospel, to reject idolatry, was to do good; yet that those who did so, far from having the praise of their rulers, were daily tormented by them: he knew that to preach the gospel was a good work, yet that he himself for so doing had been in perils and in danger of his life. How then could he assure his converts that if they did good, they should have praise of their rulers? But the difficulty vanishes, if we take good in the limited sense of the Apostle. By this reasoning the good must mean the same thing with good works ; and we have shown good works to signify the work of obedience : hence, do that which is good means, pay due obedience: and then this proposition is universally true; for obedience is

1

a good work; and be princes what they may, they will always praise it; and we are sure to get this good by it, a quiet life at least. This exposition also suits St. Paul's main design, which was to inculcate obedience to the higher powers : temperance, chastity, and the other virtues were out of this

question : if the Apostle then keeps to his point, the good thing he recommends is that of obedience; and the word in the original, rendered good in our translation, is appropriated by St. Paul and St. Peter to denote the good of obedience in opposition to that evil spirit which sets a government at nought. The promise made to obedience is, thou shalt have praise of the same. What is meant by praise may be understood from St. Peter, who speaks of governors sent for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well: where praise must denote protection and encouragement, the only proper rewards good subjects can expect. And this will explain the words, for he is the minister of God to thee for good. The Apostle had promised reward to the obedient: he then supports it by these words. To be a minister for good then, must denote his being appointed by God as a dispenser of rewards; else the argument is lame : for if any other good be meant, the consequence is false; but if he be appointed by God to dispense rewards to those who do well, and if obedience be the good work, we have reason to expect reward for our obedience. And this

appear the true one by comparing the former and latter part of the verse together : for the Apostle goes on, but if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain. He then adds, for he is a minister of God: for what? He had before called him a dispenser of rewards, a minister of God for good; here then he should have called him one for evil: but the expression being too harsh, he uses a periphrasis, and says he is a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil. This expounds a minister for good to be an encourager of him that doeth well. Compare all the parts,

sense will

and there can be no doubt: this comparison fully drawn out. What good we are to expect from kings and governors, St. Paul has told us, 1 Tim. ii. 2. The peace of society is the very end of temporal government; and when promoted by those in authority, then they are justly to be esteemed as ministers of God for good to the people, who in return are bound to obey; and this intitles them to the praise and protection of those in authority. By these two arguments St. Paul supports his doctrine of obedience : that they are rightly divided he himself bears witness in the next verse; wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake: here he refers only to two arguments, one drawn from wrath, and one from conscience : the former respects the present life and the magistrate's power; for the wrath of God is included in the latter, which is no argument without it; for what is conscience where there is no fear of God? You must then submit for wrath, because the magistrate has the power of God to execute wrath on him that doeth evil; for conscience, since he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. The sixth verse only mentions a particular instance of obedience, the paying tribute, as being the very ground of this dispute. St. Paul, under the duties of subjection, comprehends not only those owing to kings, but to every superior; nay, even to our equals : Rom. xiii. 1.; and thus concludes, owe no man any thing, but to love one another , referring even the duties of love to this head of subjection : but more on this point hereafter. The Apostle's concern was with such as were for denying the right of government, and being every man his own king; he did not therefore intend to consider the measures and limits of the power of earthly princes; nor can the argument reach this point, nor has Scripture meddled with it : it has commanded obedience to all governors, and left us the laws and constitutions of our country to know who they are, and what they are. The Apostle, in teaching this doctrine, , was chiefly concerned for the honor of the gospel, and exhorted to obedience, that the name of God and Christ might not be blasphemed. Had he taught the Christians at Rome that the emperor was ordained by God for their good, and that they were bound to obey him only so long as he was good to them; would this have cleared them of the scandal they lay under ? No: it would have justified it, and confirmed this maxim to the powers of the world, that if Christianity prevailed, their authority must sink. Notice taken of St. Peter's doctrine on this subject. His Epistle is directed to the strangers scattered throughout divers countries : for in the ninth year of Claudius, the Jews, under which name the Christians also were plainly comprehended, (Acts xviii.) were banished Rome for tumults occasioned by their disputes. This banishment is mentioned by Suetonius, and St. Luke in the Acts. St. Peter therefore was necessarily to press obedience in his exhortation to his scattered flock, (ii. 11. 12.): then follows the general precept: submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake, &c. Here St. Peter is supposed to teach us that kings are the ordinance of man: if so, he has contradicted St. Paul, who expressly tells us that the powers which be are ordained of God; which clear doctrine should make us cautious how we expound St. Peter to a different meaning. His original words are ndon ανθρωπίνη κτίσει. Now κτίσις signifes sometimes in Scripture a creature, and the adjective joined with it, human: thus the doctrine is plain; submit yourselves to every human creature, or to every man,

for the Lord's sake. How it signifies any thing made by man is unintelligible : åvopwrivn oopia is not wisdom made by man, but that wisdom which man has given to him by God; so, that crious åvOpwrivn is a human creature will appear from the whole tenor of his discourse. It is usual with the best writers to set down the doctrine in general words, and then to deduce the particulars : this is St. Peter's method in the place before us.' These particular cases detailed, which

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

are plainly included in the general rule, show the absurdity of our version of this phrase : nay, St. Peter goes

lower, and commands us to love the brotherhood : so that we may as well say we made our brother, because we must love him, as our king, because we must obey him. It was observed before, how St. Paul derived the duties of subjection so low as to the love of one another : St. Peter does the same. St. Paul's general rule is, render to all their dues : St. Peter's is, submit to every human creature. St. Paul concludes, owe no man any thing, but to love one another : St. Peter, yea, all of you be subject one to another. Thus both take all degrees of duty into the doctrine of submission; so nearly do they agree: if St. Paul has said that the higher powers are ordained of God, St. Peter has said as much, by telling us that so is the will of God, that with well-doing we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. If St. Paul has said, we must obey for consicence sake, St. Peter has affirmed that obedience is the will of God. Concluding observations.

« PreviousContinue »