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poor Greek churches have Mahometan or tyrannical governors, and carnal, proud, usurping prelates domineer over the Roman church; and there are but three Protestant kings on the whole earth! And among the Israelites themselves, who had priests and prophets to pray for their princes, a good king was so rare, that when you had named five or six over Judah, (and never an one after the division over Israel,) you scarce know where to find the rest. What good then do your prayers for kings and magistrates?'
Answ. 1. As I said before, they keep the hearts of subjects in an holy, obedient frame. 2. Were it not for prayers, those few good ones would be fewer, or worse than they are; and the bad ones might be worse, or at least do more hurt to the church than they now do. 3. It is not to be expected, that all should be granted in kind that believers pray for; for then not only kings, but all the world should be converted and saved; for we should pray for every one. But God who knoweth best how to distribute his mercies, and to honour himself, and refine his church by the malice and persecution of his enemies, will make his people's prayers a means of that measure of good which he will do for rulers, and by them in the world; and that is enough to encourage us to pray. 4. And indeed, if when proud, ungodly worldlings have sold their souls by wicked means, to climb up into places of power, and command, and domineer over others; the prayers of the faithful should presently convert and save them all, because they are governors. This would seem to charge God with respect of persons, and defect of justice, and would drown the world in wickedness, treasons, bloodshed, and confusion, by encouraging men by flatteries, or treacheries, or murders, to usurp such places, in which they may both gratify their lusts, and after save their souls, while the godly are obliged to pray them into heaven. It is no such hearing of prayers for governors which God hath promised. 5. And yet, I must observe, that most Christians are so cold and formal in their prayers for the rulers of the world, and of the church, that we have great reason to impute the unhappiness of governors, very much to their neglect; almost all men are taken up so much with their own concernments, that they put off the public concernments of the world, and of the church and state, with a few cus
tomary, heartless words; and understand not the meaning of the three first petitions of the Lord's prayer, and the reason of their precedency, or put them not up with that feeling, as they do the other three. If we could once observe, that the generality of Christians were more earnest and importunate with God, for the hallowing of his name through all the world, and the coming of his kingdom, and the obeying of his will in earth, as it is in heaven, and the conversion of the kings and kingdoms of the world, than for any of their personal concernments, I should take it for a better prognostic of the happiness of kings and kingdoms, than any that hath yet appeared in our days. And those that are taken up with the expectations of Christ's visible reign on earth, would find it a more lawful and comfortable way, to promote his government thus by his own appointed officers, than to rebel against kings, and seek to pull them down, on pretence of setting up him that hath appointed them, whose kingdom (personally) is not of this world.
Direct. XVIII. When you are tempted to dishonourable thoughts of your governors, look over the face of all the earth, and compare your case with the nations of the world; and then your murmurings may be turned into thankfulness for so great a mercy.' What cause hath God to difference us from other nations, and give us any more than an equal proportion of mercy with the rest of the world. Have we deserved to have a Christian king, when five parts of the world have rulers that are heathens and Mahometans? Have we deserved to have a Protestant king, when all the world hath but two more? How happy were the world, if it were so with all nations, as it is with us? Remember how unthankfulness forfeiteth our happiness.
Direct. XIX. Consider as well the benefits which you receive by governors, as the sufferings which you undergo;
▾ Object. Si id juris orbis obtineat status religionis erit instabilis; mutato regis animo religio mutabitur. Resp. Unicum hic solatium in Divina est providentia ; omnium animos Deus in potestate sua habet; sed speciali quodam modo cor regis in manu Domini. Deus et per bonos et per malos reges opus suum operatur. luterdum tranquillitas, interdum tempestas ecclesiæ utilior. Nempe si pius est qui imperat, si diligens lector sacræ Scripturæ, si assiduus in precibus, si Ecclesiæ Catholicæ reverens, si peritos attente audiens, multum per illum proficit veritas. Sin distorto est et corrupto judicio, pejus id ipsi cedit quam ecclesiæ. Nam ipsum grave manet judicium regis ecclesiæ, qui ecclesiam inultam non sinet. Grotius de Imper, p. 210. Johm xviii. 36.
and especially consider of the common benefits, and value them above your own.' He that knoweth what man is, and what the world is, and what the temptations of great men are, and what he himself deserveth, and what need the best have of affliction, and what good they may get by the right improvement of it, will never wonder nor grudge to have his earthly mercies mixed with crosses, and to find some salt or sourness in the sauce of his pleasant dishes. For the most luscious is not of best concoction. And he that will more observe his few afflictions, than his many benefits, hath much more selfish tenderness of the flesh, than ingenuous thankfulness to his benefactor. It is for your good that rulers are the ministers of God. Perhaps you will think it strange, that I say to you (what I have oft said,) that I think there are not very many rulers, no, not tyrants and persecutors so bad, but that the godly that live under them, do receive from their government more good than hurt; and (though it must be confessed, that better governors would do better, yet) almost the worst are better than none. And none are more beholden to God for magistrates, than the godly are, however none suffer so much by them in most places of the world. My reason is, 1. Because the multitude of the needy, and the dissolute prodigals, if they were all ungoverned, would tear out the throats of the more wealthy and industrious, and as robbers use men in their houses, and on the highway, so would such persons use all about them, and turn all into a constant war. And hereby all honest industry would be overthrown, while the fruit of men's labours were all at the mercy of every one that is stronger than the owner; and a robber can take away all in a night, which you have been labouring for many years, or may set all on fire over your heads; and more persons would be killed in these wars by those that sought their goods, than tyrants and persecutors use to kill (unless they be of the most cruel sort of all). 2. And it is plain, that in most
z Rom. xiii. 3-5.
a Dicunt Stoici, sapientes non modo liberos esse verum et reges: cum sit regnum imperium nemini obnoxium, quod de sapientibus solis asseritur. Statuere enim oportere principem de bonis et malis; hæc autem malorum scire neminem. Similiter ad magistratus, et judicia et oratoriam solos illos idoneos, neminemque malorum. Diog. Laert. in Zenone.
countries, the universal enmity of corrupted nature to serious godliness would inflame the rabble, if they were but ungoverned, to commit more murders and cruelties upon the godly, than most of the persecutors in the world have committed. Yet I deny not, in most places there are a sober sort of men of the middle rank that will hear reason, and are more equal to religion than the highest or the lowest usually are. But suppose these sober men were the more numerous, yet is the vulgar rabble the more violent, and if rulers restrained them not, would leave few of the faithful alive on earth. As many volumes as are written of the martyrs, who have suffered by persecutors, I think they saved the lives of many more than they murdered. Though this is no thanks to them, it is a mercy to others: as many as Queen Mary martyred, they had been far more if she had but turned the rabble loose upon them and never meddled with them by authority. I do not think Nero or Dioclesian martyred near so many, as the people turned loose upon them would have done. Much more was Julian, a protector of the church from the popular rage, though in comparison of a Constantine or a Theodosius, he was a plague. If you will but consider thus the benefits of your common protection, your thankfulness for rulers would overcome your murmurings. In some places, and at some times, perhaps the people would favour the Gospel, and flock after Christ, if rulers hindered them not; but that would not be the ordinary case, and their inconstancy is so great, that what they built up one day in their zeal, the next day they would pull down in fury.
Direct. xx. Think not that any change of the form of government, would cure that which is caused by the people's sin, or the common depravity of human nature,' Some think they can contrive such forms of government, as that rulers shall be able to do no hurt: but either they will disable them to do good, or else their engine is but glass, and will fail or break when it comes to execution. Men that are themselves so bad and unhumbled, as not to know how bad they are, and how bad mankind is, are still laying the blame upon the form of government when any thing is amiss, and think by a change to find a cure. As if when an army is infected with the plague, or composed of cowards, the
change of the general, or form of government, would prove a cure. But if a monarch be faulty, in an aristocracy you will but have many faulty governors for one; and in a democracy a multitude of tyrants".
Direct. xxI. Set yourselves much more to study your duty to your governors, than the duty of your governors to you; as knowing, that both your temporal and eternal happiness depend much more upon yourselves, than upon them. God doth not call you to study other men's duties so much as your own. If your rulers sin, you shall not answer for it; but if you sin yourselves, you shall. If you should live under the Turk, that would and persecute you, your souls shall speed never the worse for this; it is not you, but he that should be damned for it. If you say, But it is we that should be oppressed by it;' I answer, 1. How small are temporal things to a true believer, in comparison of eternal things? Have not you a greater hurt to fear, than the killing of your bodies by mend? 2. And even for this life, do you not believe that your lives and liberties are in the power of God, and that he can relieve you from the oppression of all the world, by less than a word, even by his will? If you believe not this, you are atheists; if you do, you must needs perceive that it concerneth you more to care for your duty to your governors, than for theirs to you; and not so much to regard what you receive, as what you do; nor how you are used by others, as how you behave yourselves to them. Be much more afraid lest you should be guilty of murmuring, dishonouring, disobeying, flattering, not praying for your governors, than lest you suffer any thing unjustly from them. "Let none of you
suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters; yet if any man suffer as
b Eam rempublicam optimam dicunt Stoici, quæ sit mixta ex regno et populari dominatu, optimorumque potentia. Diog. Laert. in Zenone.
c Bad people make bad governors; in most places the people are so wilful and tenacious of their sinful customs, that the best rulers are not able to reform them. Yea, many a ruler hath cast off his government, being wearied with mutinous and obstinate people. Plato would not meddle with government in Athens. Quia plebs aliis institutis et moribus assueverat. Diog. Laert. in Platone. And many other philosophers that were fittest for government, refused it on the same account, through the disobedience of the people.
d Luke xii. 4.