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VINDICATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NEW ENGLAND CHURCHES

Rev. John Wise
(1717)

I. I Shall disclose several Principles of Natural Knowledge; plainly discovering the Law of Nature; or the true sentiments of Natural Reason, with Respect to Man[]s being and Government. And in this Essay I shall peculiarly confine the discourse to two heads, viz.

    1. Of the Natural (in distinction to the Civil) and then,
    2. Of the Civil Being of Man. And I shall Principally take Baron Puffendorff for my Chief Guide and Spokesman.
1. I shall consider Man in a state of Natural Being as a Free-Born Subject under the Crown of Heaven, and owing Homage to none but God himself. It is certain Civil Government in General, is a very Admirable Result of Providence, and an Incomparable Benefit to Man-kind, yet must needs be acknowledged to be the Effect of Humane Free-Compacts and not of Divine Institution; it is the Produce of Man[]s Reason, of Humane and Rational Combinations, and not from any direct Orders of Infinite Wisdom, in any positive Law wherein is drawn up this or that Scheme of Civil Government. Government (says the Lord Warrington) is necessaryin that no Society of Men can subsist without it; and that Particular Form of Government is necessary which best suits the Temper and Inclination of a People. Nothing can be God[]s Ordinance, but what he has particularly Declared to be such; there is no particular Form of Civil Government described in God[]s Word, neither does Nature prompt it. The Government of the Jews was changed five Times. Government is not formed by Nature, as other Births or Productions; If it were, it would be the same in all Countries; because Nature keeps the same Method, in the same thing, in all Climates. If a Common Wealth be changed into a Monarchy, is it Nature that forms, and brings forth the Monarch? Or if a Royal Family be wholly Extinct (as in Noahs Case, being not Heir Apparent from Descent from Adam) is it Nature that must go to work (with the King Bees, who themselves alone preserve the Royal Race in that Empire) to Breed a Monarch before the People can have a King, or a Government sent over them? And thus we must leave Kings to Resolve which is their best Title to their Crowns, whether Natural Right, or the Constitution of Government settled by Humane Compacts, under the Direction and Conduct of Reason. But to proceed under the head of a State of Natural Being, I shall more distinctly Explain the State of Humane Nature in its Original Capacity, as Man is placed on Earth by his Maker, and Cloathed with many Investitures, and Immunities which properly belong to Man separately considered. As,

1. The Prime Immunity in Man[]s State, is that he is most properly the Subject of the Law of Nature. He is the Favourite Animal on Earth; in that this Part of God[]s Image, viz. Reason is Congenate with his Nature, wherein by a Law Immutable, Instampt upon his Frame, God has provided a Rule for Men in all their Actions; obliging each one to the performance of that which is Right, not only as to Justice, but likewise as to all other Moral Vertues, which is nothing but the Dictate of Right Reason founded in the Soul of Man. . That which is to be drawn from Man[]s Reason, flowing from the true Current of that Faculty, when unperverted, may be said to be the Law of Nature, on which account, the Holy Scriptures declare it written on Men[]s hearts. For being indowed with a Soul, you may know from your self, how, and what you ought to act, Rom. 2. 14. These having not a Law, are a Law to themselves. So that the meaning is, when we acknowledge the Law of Nature to be the dictate of Right Reason, we must mean that the Understanding of Man is Endowed with such a power, as to be able, from the Contemplation of humane Condition to discover a necessity of Living agreeably with this Law; and Likewise to find out some Principle, by which the Precepts of it, may be clearly and solidly Demonstrated. The way to discover the Law of Nature in our own State, is by a narrow Watch, and accurate Contemplation of our Natural Condition, and propensions. Others say this is the way to find out the Law of Nature. . If a Man any ways doubts, whether what he is going to do to another Man be agreeable to the Law of Nature, then let him suppose himself to be in that other Man[]s Room; And by this Rule effectually not to make Proficiency in the Knowledge of her Laws. But more Particularly in pursuing our Condition for the discovery of the Law of Nature, this is very obvious to view, viz.

    1. A Principle of Self-Love, and Self-Preservation, is very predominant in every Man[]s Being.
    2. A Sociable Disposition.
    3. An Affection or Love to Man-kind in General.
And to give such Sentiments the force of a Law, we must suppose a God who takes care of all Mankind, and has thus obliged each one, as a Subject of higher Principles of being, then meer Instincts. For that all Law properly considered, supposes a capable Subject, and a Superiour Power, And the Law of God which is Binding, is published by the Dictates of Right Reason as other ways; Therefore says Plutarch, To follow God and obey Reason is the same thing. But moreover that God has Established the Law of Nature, as the General Rule of Government, is further Illustrable from the many Sanctions in Providence, and from the Peace and Guilt of Conscience in them that either obey, or violate the Law of Nature. But moreover, the foundation of the Law of Nature with relation to Government, may be thus Discovered. . Man is a Creature extreamly desirous of his own Preservation; of himself he is plainly Exposed to many Wants, unable to secure his own safety, and Maintenance without the Assistance of his own safety, and Maintenance without the Assistance of his fellows; and he is also able of returning Kindness by the furtherance of mutual Good; But yet Man is often found to be Malicious, Insolent and easily Provoked, and as powerful in Effecting mischief, as he is ready in designing it. Now that such a creature may be Preserved, it is necessary that he be Sociable; that is, that he be capable and disposed to unite himself to those of his own species, and to Regulate himself towards them, that they may have no fair Reason to do him harm; but rather incline to promote his Interests, and secure his Rights and Concerns. This then is a Fundamental Law of Nature, that every Man as far as in him lies, do maintain a Sociableness with others, agreeable with the main end and disposition of humane Nature in general. For this is very apparent, that Reason and Society render Man the most potent of all Creatures. And Finally, from the Principles of Sociableness it follows as a fundamental Law of Nature, that Man is not so Wedded to his own Interest, but that he can make the Common good the mark of his Aim: And hence he becomes Capacitated to enter into a Civil State by the Law of Nature; for without this property in Nature, viz. Sociableness, which is for Cementing of parts, every Government would soon moulder and dissolve.

2. The Second Great Immunity of Man is an Original Liberty Instampt upon his Ration-al Nature. He that intrudes upon this Liberty, Violates the Law of Nature. In this Discourse I shall wave the Consideration of Man[]s Moral Turpitude, but shall view him Physically as a Creature which God has made and furnished essentially with many Enobling Immunities, which render him the most August Animal in the World, and still, whatever has happened since his Creation, he remains at the upper-end of Nature, and as such is a Creature of a very Noble Character. For as to his Dominion, the whole frame of the Lower Part of the Universe is devoted to his use, and at his Command; and his Liberty under the Conduct of Right Reason, is equal with his trust. Which Liberty may be briefly Considered, Internally as to his Mind, and Externally as to his Person.

    1. The Internal Native Liberty of Man[]s Nature in general implies, a faculty of Doing or Omitting things according to the Direction of his Judgment. But in a more special meaning, this Liberty does not consist in a loose and ungovernable Freedom, or in an unbounded Licence of Acting. Such Licence is disagreeing with the condition and dignity of Man, and would make Man of a lower and meaner Constitution than Bruit Creatures; who in all their Liberties are kept under a better and more Rational Government, by their Instincts. Therefore as Plutarch says, Those Persons only who live in Obedience to Reason, are worthy to be accounted free: They alone live as they Will, who have Learnt what they ought to Will. So that the true Natural Liberty of Man, such as really and truly agrees to him, must be understood, as he is Guided and Restrained by the Tyes of reason, and Laws of Nature; all the rest is Brutal, if not worse.
    2. Man[]s External Personal, Natural Liberty, Antecedent to all Humane parts, or Alliances must also be considered. And so every Man must be conceived to be perfectly in his own Power and disposal, and not be controuled by the Authority of any other. And thus every Man, must be acknowledged equal to every Man, since all Subjection and all Command are equally banished on both sides; and considering all Men thus at Liberty, every Man has a Prerogative to Judge for himself, viz. What shall be most for his Behoof, Happiness and Well-being.
    3. The Third Capital Immunity belonging to Man[]s Nature, is an equality amongst Men; Which is not to be denyed by the Law of Nature, till Man has Resigned himself with all his Rights for the sake of a Civil State; and then his Personal Liberty and Equality is to be cherished, and preserved to the highest degree, as will consist with all just distinctions amongst Men of Honour, and shall be agreeable with the publick Good. For Man has a high valuation of himself, and the passion seems to lay its first foundation (not in Pride, but) really in the high and admirable Frame and Constitution of Humane Nature. The Word Man, says my Author, is thought to carry somewhat of Dignity in its sound; and we commonly make use of this as the most proper and prevailing Argument against a rude Insulter, viz. I am not a Beast or a Dog, but am a Man as well as your self. Since then Humane Nature agrees equally with all persons; and since no one can live a Sociable Life with another that does not own or Respect him as a Man; It follows as a Command of the Law of Nature, that every Man Esteem and treat another as one who is naturally his Equal, or who is a Man as well as he. There be many popular, or plausible Reasons that greatly Illustrate this Equality, viz. That we all Derive our Being from one stock, the same Common Father of [the] humane Race. .
And also that our Bodies are Composed of matter, frail, brittle, and lyable to be destroyed by thousand Accidents; we all owe our Existence to the same Method of propagation. The Noblest Mortal in his Entrance on to the Stage of Life, is not distinguished by any pomp or of passage from the lowest of Mankind; and our Life hastens to the same General Mark: Death observes no ceremony, but Knocks as loud at the Barriers of the Court, as at the Door of the Cottage. This Equality being admitted, bears a very great force in maintaining Peace and Friendship amongst Men. For that he who would use the Assistance of others, in promoting his own advantage, ought as freely to be at their service, when they want his help on the like Occasions. One Good turn Requires another, is the Common Proverb; for otherwise he must need esteem others unequal to himself, who constantly demands their Aid, and as constantly denies his own. And whoever is of this Insolent Temper, cannot but highly displease those about him, and soon give Occasion of the Breach of the Common peace. It was a Manly Reproof which Charactacus gave the Romans. . What! Because you desire to be Masters of all Men, does it follow therefore that all Men should desire to be your Slaves, for that it is a Command of Nature[]s Law, that no Man that has not obtained a particular and special right, shall arrogate to himself a Larger share than his fellows, but shall admit others to equal Priviledges with himself. So that the Principle of Equality in a Natural State, is peculiarly transgressed by Pride, which is when a Man without sufficient reason prefers himself to others. . That it would be the greatest absurdity to believe, that Nature actually Invests the Wise with a Sovereignty over the weak; or with a right of forcing them against their Wills; for that no Sovereignty can be Established, unless some Humane Deed, or Covenant Precede: Nor does Natural fitness for Government make a Man presently Governour over another; for that as Ulpian says, by a Natural Right all Men are born free; and Nature having set all Men upon a Level and made them Equals, no servitude or Subjection can be conceived without Inequality; and this cannot be made without Usurpation or Force in others, or Voluntary Compliance in those who Resign their freedom, and give away their degree of Natural being. And thus we come,

II. To consider Man in a Civil State of Being; wherein we shall observe the great difference between a Natural and Political State; for in the Latter State many Great disproportions appear, or at least many obvious distinctions are soon made amongst men; which Doctrine is to be laid open under a few heads.

    1. Every Man considered in a Natural State, must be allowed to be Free, and at his own dispose; yet to suit Man[]s Inclinations to Society; And in a peculiar manner to gratify the necessity he is in of publick Rule and Order, he is Impelled to enter into a Civil Community; and Divests himself of his Natural Freedom, and puts himself under Government; which amongst other things Comprehends the Power of Live and Death over Him; together with Authority to Injoyn him some things to which he has an utter Avers[]ion, and to prohibit him other things, for which he may have as strong an Inclination; so that he may be often under this Authority, obliged to Sacrifice his Private, for the Publick Good. So that though Man is inclined to Society, yet he is driven to a Combination by great necessity. For that the true and leading Cause of forming Governments, and yielding up Natural Liberty, and throwing Mans Equality into a Common Pile to be new Cast by the Rules of fellowship; was really and truly to guard themselves against the Injuries Men were lyable to Interchangeably; for none so Good to Man, as Man, and yet none a greater Enemy. So that,
    1. The first Humane Subject and Original of Civil Power is the People. For as they have a Power every Man over himself in a Natural State, so upon a Combination they can and do bequeath this Power unto others; and settle it according as their united discretion shall Determine. For that this is very plain, that when the Subject of Sovereign Power is quite Extinct, that Power returns to the People again. And when they are free, they may set up what species of Government they please; or if they rather incline to it, they may subside into a State of Natural Being, if it be plainly for the best. In the Eastern Country of the Mogul, we have some resemblance of the Case; for upon the Death of an absolute Monarch, they live so many days without a Civil Head; but in that Interregnum, those who survive the Vacancy, are glad to get into a Civil state again; and usually they are in a very Bloody Condition when they return under the Covert of a new Monarch; this project is to indear the People to a Tyranny, from the Experience they have so lately had of an Anarchy.
    2. The formal Reason of Government is the Will of a Community, yielded up and surrend[e]red to some other Subject, either of one particular Person, or more, Conveyed in the following manner.
Let us conceive in our Mind a multitude of Men, all Naturally Free and Equal, going about voluntarily, to Erect themselves into a new Common-Wealth. Now their Condition being such, to bring themselves into a Politick Body, they must needs Enter into divers[e] Covenants.
    1. They must Interchangeably each Man Covenant to joyn in one lasting Society, that they may be capable to concert the measures of their safety, by a Publick Vote.
    2. A Vote or decree must then nextly pass to set up some Particular species of Government over them. And if they are joyned in their first Compact upon absolute Terms, to stand to the Decision of the first Vote concerning the Species of Government: Then all are bound by the Majority to acquiesce in that particular Form thereby settled, though their own private Opinion, incline them to some other Model,
    3. After a Decree has specified the Particular form of Government, then there will be need of a New Covenant, whereby those on whom Sovereignty is conferred, engage to take care of the Common Peace, and Welfare. And the Subjects on the other hand, to yield them faithful Obedience. In which Covenant is Included that Submission and Union of Wills, by which a State may be conceived to be but one Person. So that the most proper Definition of a Civil State, is this, viz. A Civil State is a Compound Moral person whose Will (United by those Covenants before passed) is the Will of all; to the end it may Use, and Apply the strength and riches of Private Persons towards maintaining the Common Peace, Security, and Well-being of all. Which may be conceived as tho the whole State was now become but one Man; in which the aforesaid Covenants may be supposed under God[]s Providence, to be the Divine Fiat, Pronounced by God, . And by way of resemblance the aforesaid being may be thus Anatomized.
    1. The Sovereign Power is the Soul infused, giving Life and Motion to the whole Body.
    2. Subordinate Officers are the Joynts by which the Body moves.
    3. Wealth and Riches are the Strength.
    4. Equity and Laws are the Reason.
    5. Councellors the Memory.
    6. Salus Populi, or the Happiness of the People, is the End of its Being; or main Business to be attended and done.
    7. Concord among the Members, and all Estates, is the Health.
    8. Sedition is Sickness, and Civil War Death
    1. The Parts of Sovereignty may be considered; So,
    1. As it Prescribes the Rule of Action: It is rightly termed Legislative Power.
    2. As it determines the Controversies of Subjects by the Standard of those Rules. So is it justly Termed Judiciary Power.
    3. As it Arms the Subjects against Foreigners, or forbids Hostility, so its called the Power of Peace and War.
    4. As it takes in Ministers for the discharge of Business, so it is called the Right of Appointing Magistrates. So that all great Officers and Publick Servants, must needs owe their original to the Creating Power of sovereignty. So that those whose Right is to Create, may Dissolve the being of those who are Created, unless they past them into an Immortal Frame. And yet must needs be dissoluble if they justly forfeit their being to their Creators.
    5. The Chief End of Civil Communities, is, that Men thus conjoyned, may be secured against the Injuries, they are lyable to from their own Kind. For if every Man could secure himself singly; It would be great folly for him, to Renounce his Natural Liberty, in which every Man is his own King and Protector.
    6. The Sovereign Authority besides that it inheres in every State as in a Common and General Subject. So farther according as it resides in some One Person, or in a Council (consisting of some Select Persons, or of all the Members of a Community) as in a proper and particular Subject, so it produceth different Forms of Commonwealths, viz. Such as are either simple and regular, or mixt.
    1. The Forms of a Regular State are three only, which Forms arise from the proper and particular Subject, in which the Supream Power Resides, As
    1. A Democracy, which is when the Sovereign Power is Lodged in a Council consisting of all the Members, and where every member has the Priviledge of a Vote. This Form of Government, appears in the greatest part of the World to have been the most Ancient. For that Reason seems to shew it to be most probable, that when Men (being Originally in a condition of Natural Freedom and Equality) had thoughts of joyning in a Civil Body, would without question be inclined to Administer their common Affairs, by their common Judgment, and so must necessarily to gratifie that Inclination establish a Democracy; neither can it be rationally imagined, that Fathers of families being yet Free and Independent, should in a moment, or little time take off their long delight in governing their own Affairs, and Devolve all upon some single Sovereign Commander; for that it seems to have been thought more Equitable, that what belonged to all, should be managed by all, when all had entered by Compact into one Community. The Original of our Government, says Plato (speaking of the Athenian Commonwealth) was taken from the Equality of our Race. Other States there are composed of different Blood, and of unequal Lines, the Consequence of which are disproportionable Sovereignty, Tyrannical or Oligarchical Sway; under which men live in such a manner, as to Esteem themselves partly Lords, and partly Slaves to each other. But we and our Country-men, being all Born Brethren of the same Mother, do not look upon our selves, to stand under so hard a Relation, as that of Lords and Slaves; but the Parity of our Descent incline us to keep up the like Parity by our Laws, and to yield the precedency to nothing but to Superiour Vertue, and Wisdom. And moreover it seems very manifest that most Civil Communities arose at first from the Union of Families, that were nearly allyed in Race and Blood. And though Ancient Story make frequent mention of Kings, yet it appears that most of them were such that had an Influence rather in perswading, then in any Power of Commanding. So Justin describes that Kind of Government, as the most Primitive, which Aristotle stiles an Heroical Kingdom. viz. Such as is no ways Inconsistent with a Democratical State. .
A democracy is then Erected, when a Number of Free Persons, do Assemble together, in Order to enter into a Covenant for Uniting themselves in a Body; And such a Preparative Assembly hath some appearance already of a Democracy; it is a Democracy in Embrio properly in this Respect, that every Man hath the Priviledge freely to deliver his Opinion concerning the Common Affairs. Yet he who dissents from the Vote of the Majority, is not in the least obliged by what they determine, till by a second Covenant, a Popular Form be actually Established; for not before then can we call it a Democratical Government, viz. Till the Right of Determining all matters relating to the publick Safety, is actually placed in a General Assembly of the whole People; or by their own Compact and Mutual Agreement, Determine themselves the proper Subject for the Exercise of Sovereign Power. And to compleat this State, and render it capable to Exert its Power to answer the End of a Civil State: These Conditions are necessary.
    1. That a certain Time and Place be Assigned for Assembling.
    2. That when the Assembly be Orderly met, as to Time and Place, that then the Vote of the Majority must pass for the Vote of the whole Body.
    3. That Magistrates be appointed to Exercise the Authority of the whole for the better dispatch of Business, of every day[]s Occurrence; who also may with more Mature diligence, search into more Important Affairs; and if in case any thing happens of greater Consequence, may report it to the Assembly; and be peculiarly Serviceable in putting all Publick Decrees into Execution. Because a large Body of People is almost useless in Respect of the last Service, and of many others, as to the more Particular Application and Exercise of Power. Therefore it is most agreeable with the Law of Nature, that they Institute their Officers to act in their Name, and Stead.
    1. The Second Species of Regular Government, is an Aristocracy; and this is said then to be Constituted when the People, or Assembly United by a first Covenant, and having thereby cast themselves into the first Rudiments of a State; do then by Common Decree, Devolve the Sovereign Power, on a Council consisting of some Select Members; and these having accepted of the Designation, are then properly invested with Sovereign Command; and then an Aristocracy is formed.
    2. The Third Species of a Regular Government, is a Monarchy which is settled when the Sovereign Power is confered on some one worthy Person. It differs from the former, because a Monarch who is but one Person in Natural, as well as in Moral account, and so is furnished with an Immediate Power of Exercising Sovereign Command in all Instances of Government; but the fore named must needs have Particular Time and Place assigned; but the Power and Authority is Equal in each.
      Mixt Governments, which are various and of divers kinds (not now to be Enumerated) yet possibly the fairest in the World is that which has a Regular Monarchy; (in Distinction to what is Dispotick) settled upon a Noble Democracy as its Basis. And each part of the Government is so adjusted by pacts and Laws that renders the whole Constitution an Elisium. It is said of the British Empire, That it is such a Monarchy, as that by the necessary subordinate Concurrence of the Lords and Commons, in the Making and Repealing all Statutes or Acts of Parliament; it hath the main Advantages of an Aristocracy, and of a Democracy, and yet free from the Disadvantages and Evils of either. It is such a Monarchy, as by most Admirable Temperament affords very much to the Industry, Liberty, and Happiness of the Subject, and reserves enough for the Majesty and Prerogative of any King, who will own his People as Subjects, not as Slaves. It is a Kingdom, that of all the Kingdoms of the World, is most likely to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, whose Yoke is easie, and Burden light.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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