For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
~ Genesis 3:5, 1 Corinthians 3:17
And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter. But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
~ Numbers 16:3, Proverbs 30:11, Proverbs 30:17, Ecclesiastes 10:20, 2 Peter 2:10-12
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
~ 1 Timothy 1:10
An Exposition of Jude, Verse 8, by William Jenkyn. This is an excerpt from the text.
Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
~ Jude 8
Here, Jude sets down the second part of the second argument, which he brought to incite these Christians earnestly to ” contend for the faith” opposed by the seducers: the argument was taken from their certain destruction. In the managing of which, having first mentioned sundry examples of God’s judgment upon the offenders of former times, he now in the second place adds, that these seducers lived in those sins which God had punished in others; and this he prosecutes in the eighth, ninth, and tenth verses.
In the eighth verse two parts are considerable.
I. The faults with which these seducers are charged.
II. The fountain from which these faults issued.
I. For the first, the faults, &e. We may consider,
1. Their specification. 2. Their amplification.
1. Their specification: (1.) Defiling of the flesh.
(2.) Opposing of authority, set down by the apostle here in two branches: [1.] Their despising of “dominion” inwardly. [2.] Their speaking ” evil of dignities” outwardly.
2. Their amplification, in these two words, ” Likewise also.” (1.) They sinned both as the former sinners had offended, and although they knew they were punished.
(2.) The fountain from which these their faults issued, viz. their spiritual security and delusion, both contained in the word ” dreamers.”
Concerning the explication of the first fault specified in these seducers, their defiling the flesh, which was the abuse of their bodies by fornication and carnal unchastity, even as Sodom had done before them, I have at large spoken in the foregoing verse; and therefore, that I may forbear needless repetitions, I shall now pass it over, only I shall make three observations, and then proceed to their next fault.
Obs. 1. Sins of carnal uncleanness are peculiarly against the body or flesh of men. In many, if not all other heinous sins, the thing abused is without the body, as in murder, theft, &c., but in this the body itself is abused, 1 Cor. vi. 18. The body not only concurs, but suffers by this sin more than any other, both by dishonour and diseases. Dishonour, in the staining and defiling that noble piece of workmanship, curiously wrought by the finger of God himself. By diseases; this lust being not only a conscience-wasting, but a carcass-wasting enemy. Sensual men kill that which they pretend most to gratify. Wherein are the enslaved to this lust wiser than Samson, in his discovering to Delilah where his strength lay? though that impudent harlot plainly told him she desired to know it to afflict him. I have heard of a drunkard that said, having almost lost his sight by immoderate drinking, he had rather lose his eyes than his drunkenness; and of an old adulterer, who was so wedded to, and yet so weakened by his lust, that he could neither live with or without his unclean companion. Were not these slaves? Truly such sinners are no better than the devil’s hackneys, meeting with nothing but stripes and drudgery; and when they can do no more, the filthiest ditch, even hell itself, is their receptacle. Our bodies never cost Satan any thing; and he, like the harlot who was not the mother of the child, pleads indeed vehemently to have them for his own, but yet withal cares not if they are cut in pieces. The worshippers of Baal slashed their poor carcasses for a god that was not able to hear them. Idolaters have not thought their own dear children, themselves repeated, sacrifices too dear for Moloch. How do papists tear and macerate their bodies in their will-worship! among them the fratres flagellantes, who once, as Hospinian reports, for thirty-three days together went up and down slashing their carcasses with whips, till they had almost whipped themselves to death, expressed more madness than mortification. Superstition neglects and punishes the body, Col. ii. 23. How different from these, how gentle and indulgent even to the poor body, are the services of God! he calls for honourable services and merciful sacrifices; nay, mercy, and not sacrifice. Chastity, temperance, &c. are severe only to those lusts which are cruel to us; even fasting itself, which seems one of the sorest services, furthers the health of the body. God might, and yet mercifully too, have appointed, since the body is such an enemy to the soul, that, like medicines given to those that are troubled with contrary – diseases, the services which are beneficial to the one, should have been hurtful to the other; but so meek and indulgent a Master is the Lord, that His commands are profitable to both.
Obs. 2. Sins of unchastity are peculiarly defiling. Besides that spiritual uncleanness wherewith every sin defiles, carnal unchastity defiles with that which is bodily. All sin in general is called uncleanness, but fornication is the sin which is singled out particularly to be branded with that name. Some think that adulterers are especially compared to dogs, unclean creatures. The hire of a whore and the price of a dog are put together; and both forbidden to be brought into the house of the Lord, Deut. xxiii. 18. And when Abner was by Ishbosheth reproved for defiling Rizpah he answers, “Am I a dog?” The child begotten in adultery is, Deut. (Seventh Com.) xxiii. 2., called Mamzer, which some learned men derive from two words, signifying another man’s spot or defilement: how foolish are they who desire to have their dead bodies embalmed, and their li\ing bodies defiled! There is a peculiar opposition between fornication and sanctification: ” This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication,” 1 Thess. iv. 3. The saints of God should have a peculiar abhorrence of this sin: ” Foniification and uncleanness,” &c., “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints,” Eph. V. 3; they should cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 1. A man who is of a cleanly disposition loves to wear clean garments. The body is the garment of the soul, and a clean heart will preserve a pure body. Remember, Christians, by what hand your bodies were made, by what guests they are inhabited, to what head they are united, by what price they are purchased, in what laver they have been washed, and to whose eye they shall hereafter be presented! Consider, lastly, whether Delilah’s lap be a fit place for those who expect a room in Abraham’s bosom.
Obs. 3. The love of lust makes men erroneous and seducers. They who make no conscience of ordering their conversation will soon be heretical. These seducers who opposed the faith were unclean, and flesh-defilers. The fool said in his heart that there was no God, and the true ground thereof immediately follows, “they are corrupt, and have done abominable works,” Psal. xiv. 1.
They who put away a good conscience, concerning faith will soon make shipwreck, 1 Tim. i. 19. The lust of ambition and desire to be teachers of the law makes men turn aside to vain jangling, 1 Tim. i. 7. Diotrephes’ love of pre-eminence puts him upon opposing the truth, 3 John 1:10. The lust of covetousness did the like. They who supposed that gain was godliness quickly grew destitute of the truth, I Tim, vi. 5; while some coveted money, they erred from the faith, 1 Tim. vi. 10; Micah iii. 5. They who subverted whole houses, and taught things which they ought not, did it for filthy lucre’s sake, Tit. i. 11. The blind watchmen and the shepherds which understood not, were such as could never have enough, and looked every one for his gain; and they were dumb, because greedy dogs, Isa. Ivi. 10, 11. The lust of voluptuousness produced the same effect; they who caused divisions contrary to the doctrine which the Romans had learned, were such as served their own belly, Rom. xvi. 17. They who led captive silly women laden with divers lusts, resisted the truth, were men of corrupt minds, and reprobate concerning the faith, 2 Tim. iii. Wine and strong drink made the prophets err and go out of the way. The heretics of old, the Gnostics, Basilidians, Nicolaitans, &c., were so infamous for carnal uncleanness as Epiphanius, Augustine, and others report, that a modest ear would even suffer by the relation thereof. Nor have the papists and Anabaptists of late come far short of them. The lusts make the affections to be judges; and where affection sways, judgment decays. Hence Alphonsus advised that affections should be left at the threshold when any went to council. We are prone to believe that to be right and lawful which we would have to be so. Lusts oppose all entrance of light which opposes them. Repentance alone makes men acknowledge the truth, 2 Tim. ii. 25. ” How can ye believe,” saith Christ, ” who receive honour one from another? ” Sensual men taught that the resurrection was past, because it troubled them to think of it, 2 Tim. ii. 18. The consideration of a resurrection, a hell, a heaven, disturbs them, and therefore they deny these. If the light be too much in men’s eyes, they will either shut their eyes, or draw the curtains. Lusts will pervert the light which is brought in, making men instead of bringing their crooked lives to the straight rule, to bring the straight rule to their crooked lives; and instead of bringing their hearts to the Scripture, to bring the Scripture to their hearts. Hence it is that wicked men study the Scripture for distinctions, to maintain their lusts; and truly a carnal will is often helped by Satan to a carnal wit. Lastly, God in judgment gives up such who will not see to an inability and utter impotency to discern what they ought, and to a reprobate mind: they who will not be scholars of truth, are by God justly delivered up to be masters of error. And because men will not endure sound doctrine, God suffers them to heap unto themselves teachers after their own lusts, to turn away their ears from the truth, and to be turned unto fables; because that when the very heathen extinguished the light of nature, and “knowing God, did not glorify him as God, professing themselves wise, they became fools, and God gave them up to uncleanness and vile affections;” much more may God send those who live under the gospel, and ” receive not the love of the truth, strong delusions, that they should believe lies,” 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11. Wonder not therefore at that apostasy from the truth which abounds in these days, and the opposing of those old precious doctrines which heretofore men have embraced in appearance; some unmortified lust or other there was in them; some worm or other of pride, licentiousness, &c., in these beautiful apples, which made them fall from the tree of truth to the dirt of error: instead therefore of being scandalised at them, let us be careful of ourselves; if we would hold the mystery of faith, let us put it into a pure conscience. Let us keep no lust in “deliciis”: love we no sin if we would leave no truth. Let us love what we know, and then we shall know what to love; let us sincerely do the will of Christ, and then we shall surely know the doctrine of Christ: ” I understand more than the ancients,” saith David, ” because I keep thy precepts,” Psal. cxix. 100. The Lord will teach such his way, and guide them in judgment. “Evil men,” saith Solomon, “understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things,” Prov. xxviii. 5. If we will turn from our iniquities, we shall understand the truth, Dan. ix. 13. Who is wise, and he shall understand these things.
Having treated of the first specified fault wherewith these seducers were charged, viz. their defiling the flesh; the second follows,
(2.) Their contempt of magistracy; and in that, first of the first branch thereof, viz. They ” despise dominion” inwardly.
Three things I here propound by way of explication.
1 . What we are here to understand by “dominion.”
2. What by despising that dominion.
3. Upon what ground Jude here condemns them for despising it.
In the first we may consider two things. [1.] To whom this dominion is attributed. [2.] What it is, and wherein it consists.
[1.] The word in the original dominion, is the same with that mentioned in 2 Pet. ii. 10, and translated government. And though it properly signify lordship, domination, or government in the abstract, the power and office of magistracy, or any ruling over others, yet must it necessarily comprehend the persons themselves governing, or in the place of authority. Government without governors is but a notion; and were it not for governors, there would be no hating of government. Paul, by ” higher powers,” Rom. xiii. 1, understands both the power or authority itself, as also the persons vested with that power and authority. And when Peter commands the Christians to love the brotherhood, 1 Pet. ii. 17, he intends the whole company of the brethren, as we understand by the nobility of the land, the nobles themselves; and yet here Jude names in the abstract, rather dominion and authority itself, than those who were placed therein, to show what it was which these seducers opposed and struck at, namely, not at officers so much as at their office; not at magistrates, but at magistracy; they loved not this same ruling over others, and such a difference among men. They aimed at anarchy, as Calvin remarks upon the place; being proud, they could not endure superiors; and being licentious, they were impatient of restraint.
Some by this dominion of which Jude speaks understand the dominion and authority of the Lord Christ received from his Father; and so refer this despising of dominion to that sin of ungodliness mentioned ver. 4, where these seducers are said to be ungodly, and to deny ” the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They “despise dominion,” that Dominationem is, saith Lyranus, Christ himself, who is not only called Lord in the concrete, but even dominion in the abstract, because of the excellency of his dominion.
But though it be true that Satan has ever endeavoured to overthrow the domination of Christ by heretics, who have denied his natures sometimes, his offices at other times, and have indeed showed themselves antichrists, 1 John ii. 4; yet under correction, I conceive, that the dominion and dignities whereof Jude here speaks, are to be referred to the civil magistrate. The word dominion, is never attributed to Christ in the New Testament, but always either to angels or magistrates, Eph. i. 21; Col. i 16; and it is only agreeable to the scope of this place to interpret it of the magistrate. Even they who by these words understand the dominion of Christ, yield that the next words, “despise dignities.” are to be understood of magistrates. And the apostle in this verse, as is conceived, compares these seducers, as for uncleanness, to Sodomites; so for contempt of government, to the Israelites, who rebelled against Moses; most suitably also subjoining this sin to the former of uncleanness, because the love of their lusts, and dissoluteness of life, made them hate that government which was appointed to restrain them.
[2.] For the second. What this dominion and power is that is attributed to the magistrate, and wherein it consists.
1. More generally, it stands in superiority, preeminence, and supereminence above others, as is evident, (1.) By those names by which it is set forth in Scripture, a, “power, authority, rule,” Rom. xiii. 1; 1 Tim. ii.
(2.) By those titles which are given to magistrates, as ” kings,”. and such as ” exercise authority,” Luke xxii. 25; ” they that are great,” Matt. xx. Acts 25; ” rulers,”” Rom. xiii. 3; ” powers,” abstract, Rom. xiii. 1; ” magistrates,” Luke xii. 11; ” governors,” Luk x. 20; and elsewhere ” nobles,” 2 Chron. xxiii. 20; Jer. xiv. 3; ” dukes ” or mighty ones, Exod. xv. 15; Ezek. xxxi. 5; ” great men,” 2 Sam. iii. 38; ” captains,” 1 Sam. ix. 16; ” princes,” Psal. Ixxxiii. 11; Ezek. xxxii. 9. With sundry metaphorical names also; as ” gods,” Exod. xxii. 28; Psal. Ixxxii. 1; cxxxviii. 1; ” children of the Most High,” Psal. Ixxxii. 6; ” the sons of the mighty,” or of the gods, Psal. Ixxxix. 6; ” fathers,” tender fathers, as the word may be, and, according to Jerom, is to be rendered, Gen. xli. 43; calls Saul ” father,” 1 Sam. xxiv. 1 1; Deborah is called a ” mother in Israel,” Judg. v. 7; “heads,” Numb. xiv. 4; Judg. xi. 8; ” mountains,” Micah vi. 1; ” anointed,” 1 Sam. xxiv. 6; ” shepherds,”; Isa. xliv. 28, &c.
2. More particularly, this dominion or power consists in three things. (1.) In ordaining laws for the good of the subjects. This is called the legislative power. Laws are like the line and plummet of the architect, without which there is no right working; and they are to a commonwealth what the sun is to the earth; without them people would not see whither to go, what to do, and all places, as is usual in darkness, would be filled with filthiness and violence; they are the cords of the tent, which, being cut, it falls to the ground. Laws are the best walls of a city; without them even walled cities want defence; they are as physic to the body, both for preventing and removing diseases; nay, they are as the soul to the body, without them this commonwealth would neither have beauty nor being. Laws have been ever esteemed so necessary, that no commonwealth under any form could ever be without them. Nor do these positive laws derogate at all from the perfection of the law moral, or of nature, but only discover the depravation of man’s nature; in whose heart, though that, that work of the law be written, which inclines all to some kind of natural goodness; yet by the fall is the knowledge of the law of nature so obscured, and the force of inordinate affection so prevalent over reason, that there is need of positive laws, for directing, restraining, encouraging. And, indeed, positive laws are but rivulets derived and drawn from the law of nature, and particular conclusions formed out of its universal principles. The law of nature only in general prescribes what is to be done or avoided, not descending to particulars: now all being not able from those general principles to deduce that which is to be practised in particular cases, which admit of innumerable variations, according to circumstances, positive laws for the good of subjects are necessarily to be suited to the condition of every commonwealth.
Nor can it justly be alleged by any that dominion may be committed as well to men alone as to laws, for the law is the voice of God, being a deduction from the law of nature, whereas a man is a servant of affections, and apt to be biassed by hatred, anger, fear, friendship, foolish pity; by reason whereof it is (as a learned man once said) easier for one wise man to make, than for many to pronounce law. It was a wise speech of Solon, “That only that commonwealth could be safe, where the people obeyed the magistrate, and the magistrates the laws.” And of Plato, who said, ” That city cannot be far from ruin, where the laws are not above the magistrate, but the magistrate above the laws.” And if against this it should be argued, that the law must needs be defective, speaks generally, and cannot come up to sundry contingent and special cases and circumstances, which it cannot foresee and determine,
I answer, let conscientious prudence supply the unavoidable defects; and that we may not set the magistrate and law at variance, let the law have power to hinder the magistrate from transgressing by the force of affection, and let the magistrate have power with rational and religious regard of circumstances to explain and apply the law. This power of the magistrate serving to make a happy temperature of “jus and aquum”, strict justice and Christian equity, and being as necessary as it is for a physician to have one eye to the rules of his art, and another to the condition of his patient; not suffering himself so to be bound up by the precepts of the former, as by laying aside his own prudence to endanger the life of the latter. And that God has given to the magistrate this legislative power is most evident, because dominion without such a power would be in vain, and never obtain its end, either in advancing godliness or the public peace. Numb. xi. 16; good laws made and executed being the direct means to promote both. As also because God has given the magistrate the prudence and power requisite to making laws; and all the commands given by God to people of being obedient would be void, and to no purpose, unless the magistrate might impose laws. And yet he must remember that the matter of his laws must be possible, else they cannot obtain their end; profitable also to the commonwealth, and just or righteous, for else they destroy their end. Nor can that be said to be a law, but rather anomy, or a breach of the law, which commands any thing against God’s law.
(2.) The power and dominion here spoken of consists in admimstrando, in jurisdiction, by way of execution or administering of justice to the people, according to the forementioned good laws. A law without execution is neither of force nor fruit. Miserable is that commonwealth whose manners have brought their laws under their power, and miserdorum maleficiably confined and nailed them to the pillar. This jurisdiction or execution of the laws is twofold.
The first is seen in judgments, or the determinations of civil controversies between parties according to the rules of the law: that this is part of the magistrate’s power is evident, 1. From (God’s ordination and command: ” By me kings reign, and princes decree justice,” Prov. viii. 15. “How long will ye judge unjustly,” &c.? ” do justice to the afflicted and needy,” &c., Psal. Ixxxii. 3. And, ” O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne, thou and thy servants, execute ye judgment and righteousness, deliver the spoiled,” &c., Jer. xxii. 2. And, ” O ye house of David, execute judgment in the morning,” Jer. xxi. 12. 2. From the direction which God gives to people to seek judgment at the hand of the magistrate: ” For all manner of trespass, whether it he for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing which another challengeth,” &c., ” the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn,” &e., Exod. xxii. 9. And, “Both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges,” Deut. xix. 17. 3. From the use and necessity of judgments.
[1.] Truth often lieth in the bottom, and falsehood lurks in corners. A prudent magistrate brings both to the light; the one because it seeks it, the other because it shuns it. [2.] Good men, by reason of their fewness, weakness, and meekness, are often great sufferers, and the wicked are numerous, potent, and oppressive. The public judgment of the magistrate is in this case to the former ” a hiding-place from the wind,” Isa. xxxii. 2, and as a wind to scatter the latter, Prov. XX. 8. And without these public judgments what would places be, but as mountains of prey, dens of wild beasts, and habitations fitter for Cyclops than Christians! God hath not by grace given to any a right in another’s estate, nor taken away from any an orderly and regular love of his own welfare; and nature in the best dictates and desires; and the God of nature, by these public judgments, has granted helps for self-preservation from injury and oppression. Only it must be here heeded, that these suits and judgments are not transacted unduly, either by the judged or the judges.
First, by the judged. I. They must not desire judgments out of envy, revenge, covetousness, or a desire of contending.
2. The matter about which judgment is desired must not be slight and frivolous.
3. The remedy of the law must not be desired till after patient waiting and Christian endeavours to compound differences, and to procure an amicable reconcilement.
4. The parties who differ must not manage their contestation with bitter and unchristian animosities, railings, briberies, or false accusations. The end of desiring judgments must not be the undoing or defaming of our adversary, but the preserving of ourselves, and the administration of justice, the welfare of others, Zech. vii. 9; viii. 16.
Secondly, The judges must not wrongfully transact these judgments, they must give every one his due. Justice, justice, or ” that which is altogether just, shalt thou do,” Deut. xvi. 20. And Moses saith he charged the judges to hear the causes between their brethren, to “judge righteously between every man and his brother,” Deut. i. 16. ” Execute judgment in the morning,” Jer. xxi. 12. Justice is the soul of judgment. An unjust judge is asolecism, a contradiction. A judge should be the law enlivened: to this end, judges must be godly. Righteousness will not stand without religion. Jethro’s advice to Moses was. Choose men fearing God, Exod. xviii. 21. “Let the fear of the Lord be upon you,” said Jehoshaphat to the judges, 2 Chron. xix. 6, 7. The Ethiopians apprehended that the angels attended on all judicatories, and therefore, as I have read of them, they left twelve chairs empty in the judgment-place, which they said were the seats of the angels; but judges must believe that a greater than the angels is there. 2. Impartial: he must ” not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty,” Lev. xix. 15; and he must ” hear the small as well as the great,” Deut. i. 17. There must no man’s condition be regarded in judgment, nor must the judge behold the face of any one’s person, but the face of his cause. God ” accepts not the persons of princes,” Jobxxxiv. 19. A judge will be a sun of righteousness, shining as well upon the beggar as the noble.
3. A master of his affections. Anger, hatred, pity, fear, &c., the clouds of affection, will hinder the sunshine of justice. The Athenian judges used to sit in Mars-street, to show that they had martial hearts. Constantine is termed a man-child, for his courage, Rev. xii:5. He who will go up to the mount of justice, must leave his affections, as Abraham did his ass and servants, at the foot thereof. Love and wisdom seldom dwell under one roof, and the fear of man is a snare. A coward, we say, cannot be an honest man, nor will a fearful and flexible judge be able to say in justice. Nay.
4. Deliberate. In the case of information about false worship, Moses directs to this deliberation before sentence be given: ” If it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain,” &c., ” then shalt thou bring forth the man,” &c., Deut. xvii. 4, 5. What plenty of words are here to prevent precipitancy in judicature! It much commended the integrity of Job, who professes, “The cause which I knew not I searched out,” Job xxix. 16. Both sides must be heard, the small as well as the great. Though a judge’s sentence be right, yet he is not right in giving it, if he give it before either party be heard.
5. A lover of truth. A man of truth, Exod. xviii. 21. Hating lying, “executing the judgment of truth,” Zech. viii. 16. His heart must love, his tongue speak the truth; nor will the hand without go right, if the wheels within go wrong.
6. Incorrupt; hating bribes, because hating covetousness. ” A gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous,” Exod. xxiii. 8; Deut. xvi. 19. Of whose hand, saith Samuel, have I received any gift “to blind mine eyes therewith?” 1 Sam. xii. 3. A judge must neither take money to be unjust, nor to be just. Righteousness is its own reward. The Thebans erected the statues of their judges without hands. The gain of bribes is summed up, “Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery,” Job XV. 34. 7. Sober and temperate. He that follows the pleasures that attend on majesty, will soon neglect the pains which belong to magistracy. It was a prudent instruction of Lemuel’s mother, ” it is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes to drink strong drink; lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted,” Prov. xxxi. 4, 5. ” Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart,” Hos. iv. 11. Some understand those words, “Execute judgment in the morning,” Jer. xxi. 12, properly, as if they should perform acts of judgment early, before they were endangered by abundant eating or feasting, to render themselves less able to discern of causes.
The second branch of jurisdiction which belongs to the magistrate, consists in the distribution of rewards and punishments.
1. Of rewards to those who keep;
2. Of punishments to those who break the laws.
1. Of rewards. Of this the apostle speaks, ” Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise,” Rom. xiii. 3. Of this the supreme Lord gives an example, who joins ” showing mercy to thousands,” with ” visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children,” Exod. XX. 6. Nor must a magistrate be a sun only for lustre of majesty, but also for warmth and benignity.
2. Of punishments. These are of sundry kinds. Some concern the name, as degradations; some the estate, as pecuniary mulets; some the body, and these are either capital, or not captital, as mutilation of some part, &c. Evident it is from Scripture commands, that it is the magistrate’s duty to punish: ” The judges shall make diligent inquisition. And thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for life,” Deut. six. 18,21. (2.) From his function: “He beareth not the sword in vain,” Rom. xiii. 4. Governors are for the punishment of evil-doers. (3.) From the benefit of these punishments. To the punished, who may grieve for what they have done; to the spectators, who may be warned from doing the same, Prov. xix. 1:5. Sinful indulgence silently, yet strongly, invites to a second wickedness. Even capital punishments are enjoined by Scripture: ” Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by mat shall his blood be shed,” Gen. ix. 6; Exod. xxi. 12, Lev. xxiv. 17, &c.; a law which, being before the erection of the Mosaic polity, shows that the laws which afterward commanded capital punishments, did not simply and absolutely, but only, in respect of some circumstances, concern the Israelites. The capital punishment of malefactors by the magistrate was dictated by the law of nature. And as Use force of the foresaid command was before, so it continued after Moses; Christ himself, even from it, drawing an argument to dissuade Peter from shedding of blood. Matt. xxvi. 52. Nor do I understand but that, if all punishments of malefactors by the sword be now unlawful, as Anabaptists dream, it must necessarily follow, that all defending of the subjects by the sword against an invading enemy is unlawful also; the public peace being opposed by the one as much as the other; nay, may we not argue, that if the power of the sword belong not to the magistrate to defend the commonwealth, that it belongs not to any private man to defend himself against the violent assaults of a murderer?
In sum, capital punishments may be inflicted, but sparingly, slowly. It is observed by some, that God was longer in destroying Jericho than in making the whole world. As many funerals disgrace a physician, so many executions dishonour a magistrate. The execution of justice should, like thunder, fear many, and hurt few: let all means be tried before the last be used. A magistrate must not be bloody when he sheds blood: the master bee alone is (they say) without a sting. If a butcher may not be of the jury, much less may he be a judge. In a doubtful case, it is better to spare many innocent than to punish one: innocent; nor must vehement suspicion, but clear; evidence, satisfy a judge. Punishment delayed may afterward be executed; but being once executed, cannot be recalled; and even when the malefactor is . condemned, the man should be commiserated; though as an offender his blood be debased, yet as a man it is precious. Thus we have explained the first thing considerable in this part, ” dominion.”
2. What is to be understood by despising dominion.
The word “oferovan” saith Beza, properly signifies to remove something out of the place, as unworthy any longer to remain therein; and it is in Scripture either spoken of persons or things: when of persons, it is declared most fitly by disdain or contemn, as Mark vi. 26; Luke x. 16; I Thess. iv. 8; and it is spoken of things properly, which being removed from their place, are accounted of no value, effect, or force; and thus it is declared by rejecting, Luke vii. 30, disannulling, Gal. iii. 15, casting off, I Tim. v. 12; and here, because we reject that which we despise, it is rendered ” despise.”
Now these seducers did not reject, disannul, cast off governing, so as to make it cease, that was not in their power; but in their judgment, desires, insinuations, and as much as in them was, they laboured to make it accounted void, abrogated, and of no value or force. And their pretence for this practice was the liberty which was by Jesus Christ purchased for them, with which they taught that obedience to magistrates was inconsistent. This seems to be plain by that more general sin which the apostle lays to their charge, of turning the grace of our God into wantonness, ver. 4, i. e. the goodness of God in bestowing liberty by Christ into libertinism. And hence it was that these seducers allured their poor seduced followers, under the pretence of liberty obtained by Christ, 2 Pet. ii. 18, 19, to all manner of wickedness and licentiousness of life; bearing them in hand, that as they were not now’ bound to any holiness of life, so particularly that Christ having redeemed them, they were free from all subjection and obedience to others. A doctrine which, as it is very taking with flesh and blood, so is it frequently by the apostles Paul and Peter opposed, who grant indeed a liberty wherewith Christ hath made a Christian free, but yet add, that this liberty is spiritual, a liberty from the law, sin, death, and hell. Gal. v. 13; not an immunity from civil obedience, and therefore not to be used for an occasion to the flesh, or for a cloak of maliciousness, 1 Pet. ii. 16. Nor indeed is anything further from truth, than that because of spiritual liberty Christians should be free from civil subjection. For as this liberty exempts us not from obedience to the commands of God, (for, as the apostle saith, Rom. vi. 18, ” Being made free from sin, we became the servants of righteousness;” and ver. 22, ” servants to God,”) so neither doth it exempt from obedience to the magistrate ordained by God. Yea, so far are the godly commands of a magistrate from opposing spiritual liberty, that they rather advance it; for true liberty stands in the choosing of good, and the rejecting of evil, and this is furthered by the righteous commands of superiors. Licentiousness is not liberty, but slavery, and makes sinners love their own insensible bondage.
3. Lastly, we shall inquire upon what ground the apostle condemns them for despising dominion. Of this briefly.
(I.) This was a sin against an ordinance of God: ” By me kings reign, Prov. viii. 1 5. ” There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. And though magistracy is an ordinance of man in regard of the subject, it being borne by man; the object, It being employed about men; the end also, the good 6f men; the kind or sort thereof, left unto the choice of several nations: yet not in regard of the invention or institution thereof, which is only from God.
In it are considerable also, the power itself, the acquisition thereof, and the execution of it. The acquisition may be from the devil, by bribery, fraud, cruelty, intrusion, invasion. The execution, or manner of using this power, may be from him likewise, as when superstition is set up instead of religion, and cruelty for equity, by those who govern. But authority itself, dominion, principality, are from God, though not tyranny. Riches gotten by usury, extortion, &c., cease not to be good in themselves; yea, and the gifts of God: and as the owner of these unjustly procured riches may be said to be a rich man; and he who has learning, though procured by unlawful means, may be said to be a learned man; so the possessor of a most unjustly obtained authority may be said to be a magistrate, and in authority, 1 Kings XV. 27 J xvi. 2, 7; xiv. 14; Dan. iv. 17, 25; Prov. viii. 15.
(2.) This sin of the seducers was a sin against the welfare and happiness of the public. They being weary of magistracy, were weary of all the comforts and blessings of peace; and in being desirous to throw down the pillars, they endeavoured to pull down the building upon their own and others’ heads. What would nations be without government, but the dens of wild beasts! ” Judah and Israel dwelt safely every one under his vine and fig-tree all the days of Solomon,” 1 Kings iv. 25. Even Nebuchadnezzar was a tree under which beasts of the field had shadow, in whose boughs the fowls of the heaven dwelt, and of which all flesh was fed, Dan. iv. 12. The funerals of a political parent millions of children will celebrate with tears. Over Saul, who was wicked and tyrannical, doth David bid the daughters of Israel to weep, who clothed them in scarlet, 2 .Sam. i. 24. Nor was it, according to some, any of the best of kings who is called ” the breath of our nostrils,” Lam. iv. 20. And it is observable, when God threatens the taking away of the staff of bread, and the stay of water, he adds, as no less a judgment, the taking away ” the judge and the prophet, the prudent and the ancient,” &c., Isa. iii. 2.
(3.) By this despising of government, they were in an especial manner their own enemies, and sinned against their own happiness. The overturners of lawful magistracy shall find their calamities to arise suddenly, Prov. xxiv. 22. ” He who breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him,” Eccl. x. 8. “An evil man seeketh only rebellion, therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.” It has been observed by some, that most, if not all, those whom the Scripture mentions as opposers of magistracy, have been punished by violent death, God not vouchsafing them so much as a reprieval to a death-bed. Koran and his company, Athaliah, Absalom, Zimri, Joab, Sheba, Adonijah, with many others, will prove this; and besides the vast supply which foreign histories afford, how hath vengeance pursued all the rebellious mentioned in our English Chronicle! Who has not heard of Becket, Montfort, Mortimer, the Percies, Tyler, Warbeck, the saltpetre saints, with sundry others, whom God made marks of vengeance for removing the ancient landmarks set for order and propriety in the nation? Nor do I remember that ever God suffered any one godly man, mentioned in Scripture, to put any lawful magistrate out of, or indirectly to put himself into, government. I say, I remember no instance of either.
Obs. 1. How provident is God for man’s peace and welfare! Without dominion we should be worse than beasts: it is the breath which so many thousand creatures draw; take it away, and none can say. This is mine. If the magistrate were not a god to man, man would soon prove a wolf, nay, a devil to man. There is no creature which so much wants a ruler as man. We may say of all other creatures, Nasciintur artijices, they are born craftmasters, they were apparelled and armed by nature, they are their own cooks, physicians, builders, even at their first entrance; only man came in without strength, weapon, clothes, or skill. How good is God to provide protectors for him! Violent and bloody men fear not hell so much as the halter; like beasts, they are more afraid of the flash of powder than the bullet; and though their fear of the magistrate saves not their souls, yet many a time has it saved our lives.. Without magistracy robbery would be a law, and men (like dogs) try all right by their teeth: where there is no ruler, every one will be a ruler; he who has no ruler over him, will be a tyrant over another. When there was no king in Israel, every Micah had a house of gods, and the Levites went begging, Judg. xvii. 6; xviii. 1, 14. It is just with God that they should feel the curse of anarchy who never were thankful for regular dominion.
2. God is highly provoked by sin, when he suffers magistrates to be burdensome to a people, and dominion to be abused; when their deliverers and saviours become their destroyed, and they, like Ephraim, oppressed and broken even in judgment. It was threatened as a sore judgment, ” I will give children to be their princes, and babes to rule over them.” For the sins of a people, many and bad are the princes thereof, Prov. xxviii. 2. And God often sets up wicked governors over people, not because they are worthy to rule, but these worthy to be so ruled. God may give a king in his anger. He speaks often of princes who were wolves ravening to the prey to shed blood, Ezek. xxii. 27; Micah iii. 1—3; Zeph. iii. 3. How righteous was God in making Abimelech a scourge to the Shechemites, who had made themselves the stirrup to his ambition! And undoubtedly if God may suffer the prophets of a people to be fools, and the spiritual men to be mad, to delude and misguide the people ” for the multitude of iniquity, and the great hatred,” Hos. ix. 7; he is not hindered from suffering the princes of people who refuse to be reformed, to be Jeroboams to their souls, and Rehoboams to their bodies, pernicious to both. Oh that people would spend more time in blaming their sins, and less in complaining of men, and but sadly and impartially examine their hearts, whether the parting with the gospel and ministry would ever fetch a quarter so many complaints from them, as an inconsiderable sessment; or whether sin startle them so , much as a tax! and if they find their consciences to give in verdict for God, let them adore his righteous severity.
Obs. 3. God is much seen in causing men’s subjection to magistrates. All naturally love to excel in worldly greatness, and like not superiority in others. Every one, saith Calvin on 1 Pet. v. 5, hath in him the mind of a king: that one therefore should keep millions of men in order, restrain, constrain, correct, command; how could it be but that God himself has imprinted the characters of Divinity upon him? and but that there is a Divine constitution in a human person? It is thou, O Lord, that subduest my people under me, saith David, Psal. cxliv. 2. And Psal. Ixv. 7, the stilling the noise of the seas, the noise of the waves, and the tumult of the people, are put deservedly together, the latter manifesting the power of God as much as the former. How did David allay; the fury of those furious spirits, who so eagerly desired to take away the life of Saul, but by this, ” Ha” is the Lord’s anointed? ” And hence princes should gather, when people cast off subjection and despise their dominion, that they themselves have despised God, provoked him to pour contempt upon them; and to make them, for cutting off their lock of loyalty to God, to become even as other men; and hence also people should learn to whom to return the praises of their peace and safety, not only to the power and policy of their governors, but principally to the ordination of that God by whom kings reign.
Obs. 4. The power given by God to magistrates should be improved for the Giver. Their dominion should advance that of the chief Lord: the greatest kings are his vassals. , The highest earthly powers shall give an account to a higher hereafter, and must therefore be regulated by, and serve for, promoting a higher for the present. The king is commanded to write him a copy of the law, and keep all the words thereof, Deut. xvii. 18. When the crown was put upon the head, the testimony was also put into the hand of Joash, 2 Kings xi. 12. The first table should be first in the magistrate’s care. Even kings and rulers must kiss the Son, Psal. ii. 12, and advance his kingdom; and provide that their subjects may not only live under them in peace and honesty, but also in godliness. If this must be the end of the subjects’ prayers, it must be the end of the magistrates’ government. These “shields of the earth” should protect God’s glory. The ” fat upon the earth” must worship Christ, and “all kings fall down before him,” Psal. Ixxii. 1 1 . The church, infant-like for weakness, must be nourished and nursed, yea, and that by kings and queens, Isa. xlix. 23. How unsuitable is it for them who are called gods, to cast otf all care of the honour of God! and for them who are called shepherds, to take no care that their subjects should have the pastures of wholesome doctrines! to suffer them to wander in the ways of sin and hell, without any care to reduce them; and to give leave to grievous wolves, seducers, to devour them! They who make all the care of the magistrate to concern the worldly welfare, without any regard of the souls of people, make him like an ox-herd, who thinks he does enough in providing fat pasture for his cattle, suffering them willingly to be carried by droves to the shambles. And why political as well as natural parents should not take care that their children are ” brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” Eph. vi. 4, I understand not. Ample testimony is given to David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, of their zeal for religion. Nor ever is the contrary mentioned in any of the other kings, but as their great sin and infamy. Nor ever will the names of Constantine, Theodosius, Justinian, cease to be precious for their care of the church of Christ. Even the heathens, Aristotle and Plato, acknowledge that the chief care in a commonwealth should be about religion; the most beautiful structure of a civil government is erected upon the sand, unless religion be the foundation.
In sum, though the power of the magistrate, as such, in the holy things of God, is not formal, intrinsical, and spiritual, so that he should administer therein, as if Christ had committed the keys to him, yet it is objective, to be employed about ecclesiastical causes, though politically, and to provide for the benefit of the church; and that by removing the impediments of religion, by preserving its maintenance, by convening assemblies for reformation, &c., and by taking care that matters ecclesiastical be duly managed by those who administer therein. Though the magistrate himself exercise not the art of physic, yet he takes care that none shall abuse that art, or exercise it hurtfully, 2 Kings xv. 14; 1 Cor. ix. 14; 2 Chron. xxxi. 3; xxix. 4; 2 Kings xxiii. 1, 2.
5. The enemies of godliness soon become opposers of civil dominion. The apostle had told us that these seducers denied the only Lord God; and here he saith, they despised dominion. They who fear not God, will not be afraid to ” speak evil of dignities.” The despisers of Saul were the sons of Belial. Good men will not be bad subjects, nor will bad men conscientiously be good subjects. The fear of God is the best foundation of obedience to the magistrate. Remarkable is the order of obedience prescribed by the apostle, ” Fear God, honour the king,” I Pet. ii. 17; and by Solomon, ” My son. fear thou the Lord and the king,” Prov. xiv. 21. Men may from a principle of policy forbear opposing magistracy as a danger, but only from a principle of conscience can they abhor it as a sin. The fear of man is but a weak bond, and as easily broken as were the cords by Samson. What a noise leave these words, ” Submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake,” in a religious ear! Whatever interest or reputation dictates, the declaration of God’s will to a gracious heart is the end of all strife. The discovery that such or such a course has a sin against God in it is enough for a saint; no more disputes then: the threats of a thousand hells are not so dissuasive. Human laws may make men hide, only God’s laws can make men hate, disobedience. A mere man is firm and steady in no relations. The greatest interest of magistracy is to advance religion. If they provide for the keeping of God’s laws, the observation of their own will follow of course. David discovered himself to be a good man, both in sparing Saul in the cave, (oh how well was it for Saul that he fell into the hands of a David!) and a wise man in setting his ” eyes upon the faithful of the land,” and in taking the perfect in their way to serve him, Psal. ci. 6. The way for the magistrate to bring men under his subjection is to plant the gospel, and to make them subject to Christ. The power of the word in the consciences of people binds more strongly to obedience than the power of the sword over the bodies of the people. And if God always restrain people from rebelling against governors, who shall tolerate in people all sorts of rebellion against God? What means that of 1 Sam. ii. 30, ” Them that honour me,” &c., “and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed? ”