The Right and Power of a Magistrate depends upon his Institution, not upon his Name.

'TIS usual with impostors to obtrude their deceits upon men, by putting false names upon things, by which they may perplex men's minds, and from thence deduce false conclusions. But the points abovemention'd being settled, it imports little whether the governors to whom Peter enjoins obedience, were only kings, and such as are employ'd by them, or all such magistrates as are the ministers of God; for he informs us of their works that we may know them, and accordingly yield obedience to them. This is that therefore which distinguishes the magistrate to whom obedience is due, from him to whom none is due, and not the name that he either assumes, or others put upon him. But if there be any virtue in the word king, and that the admirable prerogatives, of which our author dreams, were annexed to that name, they could not be applied to the Roman emperors, nor their substituted officers, for they had it not. 'Tis true, Mark Antony, in a drunken fit, at the celebration of the impure Lupercalia, did offer a diadem to Julius Caesar, which some flatterers pressed him to accept (as our great lawyers did Cromwell), but he durst not think of putting it upon his head. Caligula's affectation of that title, and the ensigns of royalty he wore, were taken for the most evident marks of his madness: and tho the greatest and bravest of their men had fallen by the wars or proscriptions; tho the best part of the senate had perished in Thessaly; tho the great city was exhausted, and Italy brought to desolation, yet they were not reduced so low as to endure a king. Piso was sufficiently addicted to Tiberius, yet he could not suffer that Germanicus should be treated as the son of a king; Principis Romani non Parthorum regis filio has epulas dari.[1] And whoever understands the Latin tongue, and the history of those times, will easily perceive that the word princeps signified no more than a principal or eminent man, as has been already proved: and the words of Piso could have no other meaning, than that the son of a Roman ought not to be distinguished from others, as the sons of the Parthian kings were. This is verified by his letter to Tiberius, under the name of friend, and the answer of Tiberius promising to him whatsoever one friend could do for another.[2] Here was no mention of majesty or sovereign lord, nor the base subscriptions of servant, subject, or creature. And I fear, that as the last of those words was introduced amongst us by our bishops, the rest of them had been also invented by such Christians as were too much addicted to the Asiatick slavery. However, the name of king was never solemnly assumed by, nor conferred upon those emperors, and could have conferred no right, if it had. They exercised as they pleased, or as they durst, the power that had been gained by violence or fraud. The exorbitances they committed, could not have been justified by a title, any more than those of a pirate who should take the same. It was no otherwise given to them than by way of assimilation, when they were guilty of the greatest crimes: and Tacitus describing the detestable lust of Tiberius, says, Quibus adeo indomitis exarserat, ut more regio pubem ingenuam stupris pollueret; nec formam tantum & decora corporis, sed in his modestam pueritiam, in aliis majorum imagines, incitamentum cupiditatis habebat.[3] He also informs us that Nero took his time to put Barea Soranus to death, who was one of the most virtuous men of that age, when Tiridates king of Armenia was at Rome; That he might shew the imperial grandeur by the slaughter of the most illustrious men, which he accounted a royal action.[4] I leave it to the judgment of all wise men, whether it be probable that the apostles should distinguish such as these from other magistrates; and dignify those only with the title of God's ministers, who distinguished themselves by such ways; or that the succeeding emperors should be ennobled with the same prerogative, who had no other title to the name than by resembling those that had it in such things as these. If this be too absurd and abominable to enter into the heart of a man, it must be concluded, that their intention was only to divert the poor people to whom they preached, from involving themselves in the care of civil matters, to which they had no call. And the counsel would have been good (as things stood with them) if they had been under the power of a pirate, or any other villain substituted by him.

But tho the apostles had looked upon the officers set over the provinces belonging to the Roman empire, as sent by kings, I desire to know whether it can be imagined, that they could think the subordinate governors to be sent by kings, in the countries that had no kings; or that obedience became due to the magistrates in Greece, Italy, or other provinces under the jurisdiction of Rome, only after they had emperors, and that none was due to them before? The Germans had then no king: The brave Arminius had been lately kill'd for aiming at a crown.[5] When he had blemish'd all his virtues by that attempt, they forgot his former services. They never consider'd how many Roman legions he had cut in pieces, nor how many thousands of their allies he had destroy'd. His valour was a crime deserving death, when he sought to make a prey of his country, which he had so bravely defended, and to enslave those who with him had fought for the publick liberty. But if the apostles were to be understood to give the name of God's ministers only to kings, and those who are employ'd by them, and that obedience is due to no other, a domestick tyrant had been their greatest benefactor. He had set up the only government that is authorized by God, and to which a conscientious obedience is due. Agathocles, Dionysius, Phalaris, Phaereus, Pisistratus, Nabis, Machanidas, and an infinite number of the most detestable villains that the world has ever produced, did confer the same benefits upon the countries they enslaved. But if this be equally false, sottish, absurd, and execrable, all those epithets belong to our author and his doctrine, for attempting to depress all modest and regular magistracies, and endeavouring to corrupt the Scripture to patronize the greatest of crimes. No man therefore who does not delight in error, can think that the Apostle designed precisely to determine such questions as might arise concerning any one man's right, or in the least degree to prefer any one form of government before another. In acknowledging the magistrate to be man's ordinance, he declares that man who makes him to be, may make him to be what he pleaseth; and tho there is found more prudence and virtue in one nation than in another, that magistracy which is established in any one ought to be obeyed, till they who made the establishment think fit to alter it. All therefore whilst they continue, are to be look'd upon with the same respect. Every nation acting freely, has an equal right to frame their own government, and to employ such officers as they please. The authority, right and power of these must be regulated by the judgment, right and power of those who appoint them, without any relation at all to the name that is given; for that is no way essential to the thing. The same name is frequently given to those, who differ exceedingly in right and power; and the same right and power is as often annexed to magistracies that differ in name. The same power which had been in the Roman kings, was given to the consuls; and that which had been legally in the dictators for a time not exceeding six months, was afterwards usurped by the Caesars, and made perpetual. The supreme power (which some pretend belongs to all kings) has been and is enjoy'd in the fullest extent by such as never had the name; and no magistracy was ever more restrain'd than those that had the name of kings in Sparta, Aragon, England, Poland and other places. They therefore that did thus institute, regulate and restrain, create magistracies, and give them names and powers as seemed best to them, could not but have in themselves the coercive as well as the directive over them: for the regulation and restriction is coercion; but most of all the institution, by which they could make them to be or not to be. As to the exterior force, 'tis sometimes on the side of the magistrate, and sometimes on that of the people; and as magistrates under several names have the same work incumbent upon them, and the same power to perform it, the same duty is to be exacted from them, and rendered to them: which being distinctly proportion'd by the laws of every country, I may conclude, that all magistratical power being the ordinance of man in pursuance of the ordinance of God, receives its being and measure from the legislative power of every nation. And whether the power be placed simply in one, a few, or many men; or in one body composed of the three simple species; whether the single person be called king, duke, marquess, emperor, sultan, mogul, or grand signor; or the number go under the name of senate, council, pregadi, diet, assembly of estates and the like, 'tis the same thing. The same obedience is equally due to all, whilst according to the precept of the Apostle, they do the work of God for our good: and if they depart from it, no one of them has a better title than the other to our obedience.

[1] Tacit. Ann. 2. [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 2, ch. 57.]

[2] Quod amicus amico praestare potest. [The letter, but not this answer, in ibid., bk. 3, ch. 16.]

[3] Annal. 1. 6. [Ibid., bk. 6, ch. 1.]

[4] Ut magnitudinem imperatoriam caede insignium virorum quasi regio facinore ostentaret. An. 1. 16. [Ibid., bk. 16, ch. 23.]

[5] [Ibid., bk. 2, ch. 88.]