God leaves to Man the choice of Forms in Government; and those who constitute one Form, may abrogate it.

BUT Sir Robert desires to make observations on Bellarmine's words, before he examines or refutes them;[1] and indeed it were not possible to make such stuff of his doctrine as he does, if he had examined or did understand it. First, he very wittily concludes, That if by the law of God, the power be immediately in the people, God is the author of a democracy: And why not as well as of a tyranny? Is there anything in it repugnant to the being of God? Is there more reason to impute to God Caligula's monarchy, than the democracy of Athens? Or is it more for the glory of God, to assert his presence with the Ottoman or French monarchs, than with the popular governments of the Switsers and Grisons? Is pride, malice, luxury and violence so suitable to his being, that they who exercise them are to be reputed his ministers? And is modesty, humility, equality and justice so contrary to his nature, that they who live in them should be thought his enemies? Is there any absurdity in saying, that since God in goodness and mercy to mankind, hath with an equal hand given to all the benefit of liberty, with some measure of understanding how to employ it, 'tis lawful for any nation, as occasion shall require, to give the exercise of that power to one or more men, under certain limitations or conditions; or to retain it in themselves, if they thought it good for them? If this may be done, we are at end of all controversies concerning one form of government, established by God, to which all mankind must submit; and we may safely conclude, that having given to all men in some degree a capacity of judging what is good for themselves, he hath granted to all likewise a liberty of inventing such forms as please them best, without favouring one more than another.

His second observation is grounded upon a falsity in matter of fact. Bellarmine does not say, that democracy is an ordinance of God more than any other government: nor that the people have no power to make use of their right; but that they do, that is to say ordinarily, transmit the exercise of it to one or more. And 'tis certain they do sometimes, especially in small cities, retain it in themselves: But whether that were observed or not by Bellarmine, makes nothing to our cause, which we defend, and not him.

The next point is subtle, and he thinks thereby to have brought Bellarmine, and such as agree with his principle, to a nonplus. He doubts who shall judge of the lawful cause of changing the government, and says, It is a pestilent conclusion to place that power in the multitude.[2] But why should this be esteemed pestilent? or to whom? If the allowance of such a power to the senate was pestilent to Nero, it was beneficial to mankind; and the denial of it, which would have given to Nero an opportunity of continuing in his villainies, would have been pestilent to the best men, whom he endeavoured to destroy, and to all others that received benefit from them. But this question depends upon another; for if governments are constituted for the pleasure, greatness or profit of one man, he must not be interrupted; for the opposing of his will, is to overthrow the institution. On the other side, if the good of the governed be sought, care must be taken that the end be accomplished, tho it be with the prejudice of the governor: If the power be originally in the multitude, and one or more men, to whom the exercise of it, or a part of it was committed, had no more than their brethren, till it was conferred on him or them, it cannot be believed that rational creatures would advance one or a few of their equals above themselves, unless in consideration of their own good; and then I find no inconvenience in leaving to them a right of judging, whether this be duly performed or not. We say in general, he that institutes, may also abrogate,[3] most especially when the institution is not only by, but for himself. If the multitude therefore do institute, the multitude may abrogate; and they themselves, or those who succeed in the same right, can only be fit judges of the performance of the ends of the institution. Our author may perhaps say, the publick peace may be hereby disturbed; but he ought to know, there can be no peace, where there is no justice; nor any justice, if the government instituted for the good of a nation be turned to its ruin. But in plain English, the inconvenience with which such as he endeavour to affright us, is no more than that he or they, to whom the power is given, may be restrained or chastised, if they betray their trust; which I presume will displease none, but such as would rather submit Rome, with the best part of the world depending upon it, to the will of Caligula or Nero, than Caligula or Nero to the judgment of the senate and people; that is, rather to expose many great and brave nations to be destroyed by the rage of a savage beast, than subject that beast to the judgment of all, or the choicest men of them, who can have no interest to pervert them, or other reason to be severe to him, than to prevent the mischiefs he would commit, and to save the people from ruin.

In the next place he recites an argument of Bellarmine, that 'tis evident in Scripture God hath ordained powers; but God hath given them to no particular person, because by nature all men are equal; therefore he hath given power to the people or multitude.[4] I leave him to untie that knot if he can; but, as 'tis usual with impostors, he goes about by surmises to elude the force of his argument, pretending that in some other place he had contradicted himself, and acknowledged that every man was prince of his posterity; because that if many men had been created together, they ought all to have been princes of their posterity. But 'tis not necessary to argue upon passages cited from authors, when he that cites them may be justly suspected of fraud, and neither indicates the place nor treatise, lest it should be detected; most especially when we are no way concerned in the author's credit. I take Bellarmine's first argument to be strong; and if he in some place did contradict it, the hurt is only to himself: but in this particular I should not think he did it, tho I were sure our author had faithfully repeated his words; for in allowing every man to be prince of his posterity, he only says, every man should be chief in his own family, and have a power over his children, which no man denies: But he does not understand Latin, who thinks that the word princeps doth in any degree signify an absolute power, or a right of transmitting it to his heirs and successors, upon which the doctrine of our author wholly depends. On the contrary, the same law that gave to my father a power over me, gives me the like over my children; and if I had a thousand brothers, each of them would have the same over their children. Bellarmine's first argument therefore being no way enervated by the alleged passage, I may justly insist upon it, and add, that God hath not only declared in Scripture, but written on the heart of every man, that as it is better to be clothed, than to go naked; to live in a house, than to lie in the fields; to be defended by the united force of a multitude, than to place the hopes of his security solely in his own strength; and to prefer the benefits of society, before a savage and barbarous solitude; he also taught them to frame such societies, and to establish such laws as were necessary to preserve them. And we may as reasonably affirm, that mankind is forever obliged to use no other clothes than leather breeches, like Adam; to live in hollow trees, and eat acorns, or to seek after the model of his house for a habitation, and to use no arms except such as were known to the patriarchs, as to think all nations forever obliged to be governed as they governed their families. This I take to be the genuine sense of the Scripture, and the most respectful way of interpreting the places relating to our purpose. 'Tis hard to imagine, that God who hath left all things to our choice, that are not evil in themselves, should tie us up in this; and utterly incredible that he should impose upon us a necessity of following his will, without declaring it to us. Instead of constituting a government over his people, consisting of many parts, which we take to be a model fit to be imitated by others, he might have declared in a word, that the eldest man of the eldest line should be king; and that his will ought to be their law. This had been more suitable to the goodness and mercy of God, than to leave us in a dark labyrinth, full of precipices; or rather, to make the government given to his own people, a false light to lead us to destruction. This could not be avoided, if there were such a thing as our author calls a lord paramount over his children's children to all generations. We see nothing in Scripture, of precept or example, that is not utterly abhorrent to this chimera. The only sort of kings mentioned there with approbation, is such a one as may not raise his heart above his brethren.[5] If God had constituted a lord paramount with an absolute power, and multitudes of nations were to labour and fight for his greatness and pleasure, this were to raise his heart to a height, that would make him forget he was a man. Such as are versed in Scripture, not only know that it neither agrees with the letter or spirit of that book; but that it is unreasonable in itself, unless he were of a species different from the rest of mankind. His exaltation would not agree with God's indulgence to his creatures, tho he were the better for it; much less when probably he would be made more unhappy, and worse, by the pride, luxury and other vices, that always attend the highest fortunes. Tis no less incredible that God, who disposes all things in wisdom and goodness, and appoints a due place for all, should, without distinction, ordain such a power, to everyone succeeding in such a line, as cannot be executed; the wise would refuse, and fools cannot take upon them the burden of it, without ruin to themselves, and such as are under them: or expose mankind to a multitude of other absurdities and mischiefs; subjecting the aged to be governed by children; the wise, to depend on the will of fools; the strong and valiant, to expect defence from the weak or cowardly; and all in general to receive justice from him, who neither knows nor cares for it.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 2.]

[2] [Patriarcha, ch. 2.]

[3] Cujus est instituere, ejus est abrogare.

[4] [Patriarcha, ch. 3.]

[5] Deut. 17.

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