« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
alk. If a certain Sett of Notions had been serm. embraced in those Days, some of his FellowChristians might perhaps have informed Him, m that the Laws were but a dead Letter; that what the Executive Power ordained was Law, tho' contrary to all the Laws then in force ; that He who was but a Subject, was no proper Judge of his own Rights, and ought not to give so ill a Precedent to other Subjects, as might encourage them to dare to judge when their Privileges were invaded ; and much more, that He, being a Christian, and an ApoAtle, a Follower of a crucified Master, and a Preacher of the Doctrine of the Cross, ought not to thew any Concern about worldly Rights and Privileges; but think it a Glory rather to give them up to the Invasion of his Superiors. Thus, I say, might some Christians have taught St. Paul to have behaved himself.
But He, we find, was of another Opinion; and had very
different Sentiments concerning these Matters. He thought it no Argument of a Christian Spirit, to suffer any thing which he could honourably avoid ; and He thought it honourable to plead the Privileges of a Subjeet against the Encroachments of the Higher Powers: And fo He appeals to the Laws, and claims the Right of being used by the Executive Power, no otherwise than as they direct.
2. If we follow him a little farther, we VI. shall find Him, in the next Chapter, brought,
by Order of the same Chief Captain, before the Chief Priests, and Council of the Jews, to see how he could acquit himself to Them. Upon his declaring his Şincerity, and Uprightness, the High-priest Ananias commanded them that stood by, to smite Him on the Mouth. St. Paul's Reply was very severe, God shall fmite thee, thou whited Wall: For fittest thou there to judge me after the Law, and commandeft me to be Imitten contrary to the Law ? ver. 3. And tho? He afterwards repented of the reproachful Word he gave the High-priest in his Anger ; yet
he repented not of the just Sense he had, of the illegal Indignity offered him ; or of his Zeal against all such Magiftrates as acted against the End of their Office, and against those Laws by which they ought to be governed in the Execution of it. Here again it is evident, that this great Apostle had the Spirit of Liberty in him; and thought that those Laws which were made for the Security and Guard of it, were not to be dispensed with, at the Pleasure of those whose Business it was to execute them. Here again we find him pretending to know, and judge of, his own Civil Privileges; and not tamely submitting to the Violation of them. If some Christians of later :
Ages had lived in his Time, and been Witnes-SE RM. ses of this, they would not only have said, Revileft thou God's High-priest ? but would have asked him, how He, being a Subject, and a Chriftian, could answer to his own Conscience, his thinking any Subjects fit Judges of the Invasion of their own Privileges ? They would have reprehended him severely for placing himself above his Judges, and turning the World upside down; for making Subjects Rulers, and Rulers Subjects, as they love to speak, by this preposterous Way of pleading his Privileges, even whilft he stood before a Court of Judicature. But it is very plain, that, as no Man was more zealous for the Honour and Veneration of such Magistrates as answer the Ends of their Office, which is the Good of Human Society : fo no Man could express a more hearty Dislike of those who acted a contrary Part; or a greater Concern for the Temporal good Estate of Subjects, even amidst his continual Labours and Cares for the Eternal Happiness of all Men. Once more,
3. If we look back as far as the xvith Chap. we shall find a yet greater Proof of this. The Magiftrates of Philippi commanded Paul and Silas to be beaten with many Stripes, and cast into Prison, ver. 23. but the next Morning sent to the Keeper of the Prison to let them go,
SERM. ver. 35. St. Paul's Answer is very obfervable,
They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being m Romans, and have cast us into Prison: And now
do they thrust us out privily? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out. He was just now delivered out of Prison by a wonderful Shock of the Earth about it; and so might have escaped before this Release was brought from the Magistrates: But after such a good-natured Message from them, one would think, He might have quietly departed. It would have been but the Compliance of a Subject with a lawful Request of his Superiors. Yet this great Apostle did not think it honourable to go away, without expressing some Resentment against the Invasion of the Privileges of the Subje&t, which the Magistrates had been guilty of; and without pleading the Cause of injured Inferiors. He continues resolute till these Magistrates themselves had waited upon him, and desired him to depart out of the City, ver. 39. And here again, How would fome, who pretend to found their Notions of these
very Apostle, have reprehended any
other Man in the fame Circumstances? Answerest thou the Vicegerents of God fo? Where is the profound Respect due to that Order instituted by God himself? Where is the Sense of the Duty of Subjects ? Nay, where
is Government itself, if Subjects may be allowed to S ERM. judge of the Invasion of their own Privileges; · VI. if Laws must be placed above the Determinations of the Executive Power ? But above all, where can there be a Stop, when Obedience is refused to a lawful Injunction of the Magistrate, and to what might without Sin be complied with? Whom therefore shall we follow? Those who speak after this manner, or St. Paul; who knew, as well as they, the Duty owing to Magistrates, and yet gave not up his own Judgment to them? But tho' a Subject, and acting the Part of a Subje&t, took upon him (by what these Persons might perhaps call a stubborn Behaviour) to bring the Magistrates themselves to a Sense of that Invasion they had made upon the Rights and Privileges of Roman Subjects; and this, tho' the Invasion appears to have been made merely through an hasty Mistake. ' Of so great Consequence did He think it to oppose one single Instance of illegal oppreffon!
Thus have I given you a true Account of the most remarkablePasages recorded concerning St. Pauls Behaviour, with Respect to his Civil Privileges ; and to those Magistrates, before whom he had occasion to appear.
If any one say, that all this relates only to Deputed, or Inferior Magistrates, not to the Su