Unjust Commands are not to be obey'd; and no man is obliged to suffer for not obeying such as are against Law.

IN the next place our author gravely proposes a question, Whether it be a sin to disobey the king, if he command anything contrary to law? and as gravely determines, that not only in human laws, but even in divine, a thing may be commanded contrary to law, and yet obedience to such a command is necessary. The sanctifying of the Sabbath is a divine law, yet if a master command his servant not to go to church upon a Sabbath day, the best divines teach us, the servant must obey, &c. It is not fit to tie the master to acquaint the servant with his secret counsel.[1] Tho he frequently contradicts in one line what he says in another, this whole clause is uniform and suitable to the main design of his book. He sets up the authority of man in opposition to the command of God, gives it the preference, and says, the best divines instruct us so to do. St. Paul then must have been one of the worst, for he knew that the powers under which he lived, had under the severest penalties forbidden the publication of the Gospel; and yet he says, Woe to me if I preach it not. St. Peter was no better than he, for he tells us, That it is better to obey God than man: and they could not speak otherwise, unless they had forgotten the words of their master, who told them, They should not fear them that could only kill the body, but him who could kill and cast into hell.[2] And if I must not fear him that can only kill the body, not only the reason, but all excuse for obeying him is taken away.

To prove what he says, he cites a pertinent example from St. Luke,[3 ]and very logically concludes, that because Christ reproved the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (who generally adhered to the external and circumstantial part of the law, neglecting the essential, and taking upon themselves to be the interpreters of that which they did not understand), the law of God is not to be obeyed: and as strongly proves, that because Christ shewed them that the same law, which by their own confession permitted them to pull an ass out of a pit on the sabbath day, could not but give a liberty of healing the sick, therefore the commands of kings are to be obeyed, tho they should be contrary to human and divine laws. But if perverseness had not blinded him, he might have seen, that this very text is wholly against his purpose; for the magistratical power was on the side of the Pharisees, otherwise they would not have sought an occasion to ensnare him; and that power having perverted the law of God by false glosses, and a superinduction of human traditions, prohibited the most necessary acts of charity to be done on the sabbath day, which Christ reproved, and restored the sick man to his health in their sight.

But I could wish our author had told us the names of those divines, who, he says, are the best, and who pretend to teach us these fine things. I know some who are thought good, that are of a contrary opinion, and say that God having required that day to be set apart for his service and worship, man cannot dispense with the obligation, unless he can abrogate the law of God. Perhaps, for want of other arguments to prove the contrary, I may be told, that this savours too much of Puritanism and Calvinism. But I shall take the reproach, till some better patrons than Laud and his creatures may be found for the other opinion. By the advice and instigation of these men, from about the year 1630, to 1640, sports and revelings, which ended for the most part in drunkenness and lewdness, were not only permitted on that day, but enjoined. And tho this did advance human authority in derogation to the divine, to a degree that may please such as are of our author's mind, yet others resolving rather to obey the laws of God than the commands of men, could not be brought to pass the Lord's day in that manner. Since that time no man except Filmer and Heylyn has been so wicked to conceive, or so impudent to assert such brutal absurdities. But leaving the farther consideration of the original of this abuse, I desire to know, whether the authority given to masters to command things contrary to the law of God, be peculiar in relation to the Sabbath, or to a few other points, or ought generally to extend to all God's laws; and whether he who may command his servant to act contrary to the law of God, have not a right in himself of doing the same. If peculiar, some authority or precept must be produced, by which it may appear that God has slighted his ordinance concerning that day, and suffer'd it to be contemned, whilst he exacts obedience to all others. If we have a liberty left to us of slighting others also, more or less in number, we ought to know how many, what they are, and how it comes to pass, that some are of obligation and others not. If the empire of the world is not only divided between God and Caesar, but every man also who can give five pounds a year to a servant, has so great a part in it, that in some cases his commands are to be obeyed preferably to those of God, it were fit to know the limits of each kingdom, lest we happen preposterously to obey man when we ought to obey God, or God when we are to follow the commands of men. If it be general, the law of God is of no effect, and we may safely put an end to all thoughts and discourses of religion: the word of God is nothing to us; we are not to enquire what he has commanded, but what pleases our master, how insolent, foolish, vile or wicked soever he may be. The apostles and prophets, who died for preferring the commands of God before those of men, fell like fools, and perished in their sins. But if every particular man that has a servant, can exempt him from the commands of God, he may also exempt himself, and the laws of God are at once abrogated throughout the world.

'Tis a folly to say there is a passive, as well as an active obedience, and that he who will not do what his master commands ought to suffer the punishment he inflicts: for if the master has a right of commanding, there is a duty incumbent on the servant of obeying. He that suffers for not doing that which he ought to do, draws upon himself both the guilt and the punishment. But no one can be obliged to suffer for that which he ought not to do, because he who pretends to command, has not so far an authority. However, our question is, whether the servant should forbear to do that which God commands, rather than whether the master should put away or beat him if he do not: for if the servant ought to obey his master rather than God, as our author says the best divines assert, he sins in disobeying, and that guilt cannot be expiated by his suffering. If it be thought I carry this point to an undue extremity, the limits ought to be demonstrated, by which it may appear that I exceed them, tho the nature of the case cannot be altered: for if the law of God may not be abrogated by the commands of men, a servant cannot be exempted from keeping the Sabbath according to the ordinance of God, at the will of his master. But if a power be given to man at his pleasure to annul the laws of God, the apostles ought not to have preached, when they were forbidden by the powers to which they were subject: The tortures and deaths they suffer'd for not obeying that command were in their own wrong, and their blood was upon their own heads.

His second instance concerning wars,[4] in which he says the subject is not to examine whether they are just or unjust, but must obey, is weak and frivolous, and very often false; whereas consequences can rightly be drawn from such things only as are certainly and universally true. Tho God may be merciful to a soldier, who by the wickedness of a magistrate whom he honestly trusts, is made a minister of injustice, 'tis nothing to this case. For if our author say true, that the word of a king can justify him in going against the command of God, he must do what is commanded tho he think it evil: The Christian soldiers under the pagan emperors were obliged to destroy their brethren, and the best men in the world for being so: Such as now live under the Turk have the same obligation upon them of defending their master, and slaughtering those he reputes his enemies for adhering to Christianity: And the king of France may when he pleases, arm one part of his Protestant subjects to the destruction of the other; which is a godly doctrine, and worthy our author's invention. But if this be so, I know not how the Israelites can be said to have sinned in following the examples of Jeroboam, Omri, Ahab, or other wicked kings: they could not have sinned in obeying, if it had been a sin to disobey their commands; and God would not have punished them so severely, if they had not sinned. 'Tis impertinent to say they were obliged to serve their kings in unjust wars, but not to serve idols; for tho God be jealous of his glory, yet he forbids rapine and murder as well as idolatry. If there be a law that forbids the subject to examine the commands tending to the one, it cannot but enjoin obedience to the other. The same authority which justifies murder, takes away the guilt of idolatry; and the wretches, both judges and witnesses, who put Naboth to death, could as little allege ignorance, as those that worshipped Jeroboam's calves; the same light of nature by which they should have known, that a ridiculous image was not to be adored as God, instructing them also, that an innocent man ought not under pretence of law to be murdered by perjury.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 25.]

[2] [1 Corinthians 9:16; Acts 5:29; Matthew 10:28.]

[3] Chap. 14.

[4] [Patriarcha, ch. 25.]