Nimrod was the first King, during the life of Cush, Ham, Shem, and Noah.

THE Creation is exactly described in the Scripture; but we know so little of what passed between the finishing of it and the Flood, that our author may say what he pleases, and I may leave him to seek his proofs where he can find them.[1] In the meantime I utterly deny, that any power did remain in the heads of families after the flood, that does in the least degree resemble the regal in principle or practice. If in this I am mistaken, such power must have been in Noah, and transmitted to one of his sons. The Scripture says only, that he built an altar, sacrificed to the Lord, was a husbandman, planted a vineyard, and performed such offices as bear nothing of the image of a king, for the space of three hundred and fifty years. We have reason to believe, that his sons after his death, continued in the same manner of life, and the equality properly belonging to brethren. 'Tis not easy to determine, whether Shem or Japheth were the elder;[2] but Ham is declared to be the younger; and Noah's blessing to Shem seems to be purely prophetical and spiritual, of what should be accomplished in his posterity; with which Japheth should be persuaded to join. If it had been worldly, the whole earth must have been brought under him, and have forever continued in his race, which never was accomplished, otherwise than in the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which relates not to our author's lord paramount.

As to earthly kings, the first of them was Nimrod, the sixth son of Cush the son of Ham, Noah's younger and accursed son. This kingdom was set up about a hundred and thirty years after the Flood, whilst Cush, Ham, Shem and Noah were yet living; whereas if there were anything of truth in our author's proposition, all mankind must have continued under the government of Noah whilst he lived; and that power must have been transmitted to Shem, who lived about three hundred and seventy years after the erection of Nimrod's kingdom; and must have come to Japheth if he was the elder, but could never come to Ham, who is declared to have been certainly the younger, and condemned to be a servant to them both; much less to the younger son of his son, whilst he, and those to whom he and his posterity were to be subjects, were still living.

This rule therefore, which the partizans of absolute monarchy fancy to be universal and perpetual, falling out in its first beginning, directly contrary to what they assert; and being never known to have been recovered, were enough to silence them, if they had anything of modesty or regard to truth. But the matter may be carried farther: For the Scripture doth not only testify, that this kingdom of Nimrod was an usurpation, void of all right, proceeding from the most violent and mischievous vices, but exercised with the utmost fury, that the most wicked man of the accursed race, who set himself up against God, and all that is good, could be capable of. The progress of this kingdom was suitable to its institution: that which was begun in wickedness, was carried on with madness, and produced confusion. The mighty hunter, whom the best interpreters call a cruel tyrant, receding from the simplicity and innocence of the patriarchs, who were husbandmen or shepherds, arrogating to himself a dominion over Shem, to whom he and his fathers were to be servants, did thereby so peculiarly become the heir of God's curse, that whatsoever hath been said to this day, of the power that did most directly set itself against God and his people, hath related literally to the Babel that he built, or figuratively to that which resembles it in pride, cruelty, injustice and madness.[3]

But the shameless rage of some of these writers is such, that they rather chuse to ascribe the beginning of their idol to this odious violence, than to own it from the consent of a willing people; as if they thought, that as all action must be suitable to its principle, so that which is unjust in its practice, ought to scorn to be derived from that which is not detestable in its principle. 'Tis hardly worth our pains to examine whether the nations, that went from Babel after the confusion of languages, were more or less than seventy two, for they seem not to have gone according to families, but every one to have associated himself to those that understood his speech; and the chief of the fathers, as Noah and his sons, were not there, or were subject to Nimrod; each of which points doth destroy, even in the root, all pretence to paternal government. Besides, 'tis evident in Scripture, that Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the Flood; Shem five hundred; Abraham was born about two hundred and ninety years after the Flood, and lived one hundred seventy five years: He was therefore born under the government of Noah, and died under that of Shem: He could not therefore exercise a regal power whilst he lived, for that was in Shem: So that in leaving his country, and setting up a family for himself, that never acknowledged any superior, and never pretending to reign over any other, he fully shewed he thought himself free, and to owe subjection to none: And being as far from arrogating to himself any power upon the title of paternity, as from acknowledging it in any other, left every one to the same liberty.

The punctual enumeration of the years, that the fathers of the holy seed lived, gives us ground of making a more than probable conjecture, that they of the collateral lines were, in number of days, not unequal to them; and if that be true, Ham and Cush were alive when Nimrod set himself up to be king. He must therefore have usurped this power over his father, grandfather, and great grandfather; or, which is more probable, he turned into violence and oppression the power given to him by a multitude; which, like a flock without a shepherd, not knowing whom to obey, set him up to be their chief. I leave to our author the liberty of chusing which of these two doth best suit with his paternal monarchy; but as far as I can understand, the first is directly against it, as well as against the laws of God and man; the other being from the consent of the multitude, cannot be extended farther than they would have it, nor turned to their prejudice, without the most abominable ingratitude and treachery, from whence no right can be derived, nor any justifiable example taken.

Nevertheless, if our author resolve that Abraham was also a king, he must presume that Shem did emancipate him, before he went to seek his fortune. This was not a kingly posture; but I will not contradict him, if I may know over whom he reigned. Paternal monarchy is exercised by the father of the family over his descendants, or such as had been under the dominion of him, whose heir he is. But Abraham had neither of these: Those of his nearest kindred continued in Mesopotamia, as appears by what is said of Bethuel and Laban. He had only Lot with him, over whom he pretended no right: He had no children till he was a hundred years old (that is to say, he was a king without a subject), and then he had but one. I have heard that sovereigns do impatiently bear competitors;[4] but now I find subjection also doth admit of none. Abraham's kingdom was too great when he had two children, and to disburthen it, Ishmael must be expelled soon after the birth of Isaac. He observed the same method after the death of Sarah: He had children by Keturah; but he gave them gifts and sent them away, leaving Isaac like a stoical king reigning in and over himself, without any other subject till the birth of Jacob and Esau. But his kingdom was not to be of a larger extent than that of his father: The two twins could not agree: Jacob was sent away by his mother; he reigned over Esau only, and 'tis not easy to determine who was the heir of his worldly kingdom; for tho Jacob had the birthright, we do not find he had any other goods, than what he had gotten in Laban's service. If our author say true, the right of primogeniture, with the dominion perpetually annexed by the laws of God and nature, must go to the eldest: Isaac therefore, tho he had not been deceived, could not have conferred it upon the younger; for man cannot overthrow what God and nature have instituted. Jacob, in the court language, had been a double rebel, in beguiling his father, and supplanting his brother. The blessing of being lord over his brethren, could not have taken place. Or if Isaac had power, and his act was good, the prerogative of the elder is not rooted in the law of God or nature, but a matter of conveniency only, which may be changed at the will of the father, whether he know what he do or not. But if this paternal right to dominion were of any value, or dominion over men were a thing to be desired, why did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, content themselves with such a narrow territory, when after the death of their ancestors, they ought, according to that rule, to have been lords of the world? All authors conclude that Shem was the eldest by birth, or preferred by the appointment of God, so as the right must have been in him, and from him transmitted to Abraham and Isaac; but if they were so possessed with the contemplation of a heavenly kingdom, as not to care for the greatest on earth; 'tis strange that Esau, whose modesty is not much commended, should so far forget his interest, as neither to lay claim to the empire of the world, nor dispute with his brother the possession of the field and cave bought by Abraham, but rather to fight for a dwelling on Mount Seir, that was neither possessed by, nor promised to his fathers. If he was fallen from his right, Jacob might have claimed it; but God was his inheritance, and being assured of his blessing, he contented himself with what he could gain by his industry, in a way that was not at all suitable to the pomp and majesty of a king. Which way soever therefore the business be turned, whether, according to Isaac's blessing, Esau should serve Jacob, or our author's opinion, Jacob must serve Esau, neither of the two was effected in their persons: And the kingdom of two being divided into two, each of them remained lord of himself.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 4.]

[2] Gen. 9.

[3] [Genesis 10-11.]

[4] Omnisque potestas impatiens consortis erit. Lucan. []