Abraham and the Patriarchs were not kings.

IF any man say, that we are not to seek into the depth of God's counsels; I answer, that if he had, for reasons known only to himself, affixed such a right to any one line, he would have set a mark upon those who come of it, that nations might know to whom they owe subjection; or given some testimony of his presence with Filmer and Heylyn, if he had sent them to reveal so great a mystery. Till that be done, we may safely look upon them as the worst of men, and teachers only of lies and follies. This persuades me little, to examine what would have been, if God had at once created many men, or the conclusions that can be drawn from Adam's having been alone. For nothing can be more evident, than that if many had been created, they had been all equal, unless God had given a preference to one. All their sons had inherited the same right after their death; and no dream was ever more empty, than his whimsey of Adam's kingdom, or that of the ensuing patriarchs. To say the truth, 'tis hard to speak seriously of Abraham's kingdom, or to think any man to be in earnest who mentions it. He was a stranger, and a pilgrim in the land where he lived, and pretended to no authority beyond his own family, which consisted only of a wife and slaves. He lived with Lot as with his equal, and would have no contest with him, because they were brethren. His wife and servants could neither make up, nor be any part of a kingdom, in as much as the despotical government, both in practice and principle, differs from the regal. If his kingdom was to be grounded on the paternal right, it vanished away of itself; he had no child: Eliezer of Damascus, for want of a better, was to be his heir: Lot, tho his nephew, was excluded: He durst not own his own wife: He had not one foot of land, till he bought a field for a burying place: His three hundred and eighteen men were servants (bought according to the custom of those days), or their children;[1] and the war he made with them, was like to Gideon's enterprize; which shews only that God can save by a few as well as by many, but makes nothing to our author's purpose. For if they had been as many in number as the army of Semiramis, they could have no relation to the regal, much less to the paternal power; for a father doth not buy, but beget children.

Notwithstanding this, our author bestows the proud title of lord paramount upon him, and transmits it to Isaac, who was indeed a king like his father, great, admirable, and glorious in wisdom and holiness, but utterly void of all worldly splendor or power. This spiritual kingdom was inherited by Jacob, whose title to it was not founded on prerogative of birth, but election and peculiar grace; but he never enjoyed any other worldly inheritance, than the field and cave which Abraham had bought for a burying place, and the goods he had gained in Laban's service.

The example of Judah his sentence upon Thamar[2] is yet farther from the purpose, if it be possible; for he was then a member of a private family, the fourth son of a father then living; neither in possession, nor under the promise of the privileges of primogeniture, tho Reuben, Simeon and Levi fell from it by their sins. Whatsoever therefore the right was, which belonged to the head of the family, it must have been in Jacob; but as he professed himself a keeper of sheep, as his fathers had been, the exercise of that employment was so far from regal, that it deserves no explication. If that act of Judah is to be imputed to a royal power, I have as much as I ask: He, tho living with his father, and elder brothers, when he came to be of age to have children, had the same power over such, as were of, or came into his family, as his father had over him; for none can go beyond the power of life and death: The same in the utmost extent, cannot at the same time equally belong to many. If it be divided equally, it is no more than that universal liberty which God hath given to mankind; and every man is a king till he divest himself of his right, in consideration of something that he thinks better for him.

[1] [Genesis 13-15.]

[2] [Genesis 38.]