Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

son, that he, who trod down all law, should not be vouchsafed the benefit of law. Insomuch that Seneca, the tragedian, brings in Hercules, the grand suppressor of tyrants, thus speaking :

-- Victima haud ulla amplior
Potest, magisque opima mactari Jovi
Quam rex iniquus-

There can be slain
No sacrifice to God more acceptable

Than an unjust and wicked king23. But of these I name no more, lest it be objected they were heathen; and come to produce another sort of men, that had the knowledge of true religion. Among the Jews this custom of tyrant-killing was not unusual. First, Ehud, a man whom God had raised to deliver Israel from Eglon king of Moab, who had conquered and ruled over them eighteen years, being sent to him as an ambassador with a present, slew him in his own house. But he was a foreign prince, an enemy,

says Aristotle, “decree the most illustrious rewards, not to him who catches a thief, but to him who kills a tyrant.” (Politics, 1. ii. c. 5.) Cicero, speaking of the identity of the just and the useful, introduces the general opinion of the Roman people on tyrannicide; and the passage is prefaced by the remark, that when a man begins to entertain doubts as to whether a certain act be criminal or not, he frequently comes, in time, to confound honour and baseness. “What crime can be greater,” says he, " than killing not merely a man, but a friend? And yet, is he criminal who kills a tyrant, though he should happen to be his friend ? Populo quidem Romano non videtur, qui ex omnibus præclaris factis illud pulcherrimum existimat.(De Officiis, iii. 4.) See the Valerian Law in Plutarch in Publicol. c. xi. Žypaye yap vópov, &c.

and Ehud besides had special warrant from God. To the first I answer, it imports not whether foreign or native: for no prince so native but professes to hold by law; which when he himself overturns, breaking all the covenants and oaths that gave him title to his dignity, and were the bond and alliance between him and his people, what differs he from an outlandish king, or from an enemy?

24. For look how much right the king of Spain hath to govern us at all, so much right hath the king of England to govern us tyrannically. If he, though not bound to us by any league, coming from Spain in person to subdue us, or to destroy us, might lawfully by the people of England either be slain in fight, or put to death in captivity, what hath a native king to plead, bound by so many covenants, benefits, and honours, to the welfare of his people; why he through the contempt of all laws and parliaments, the only tie of our obedience to him, for his own will's sake, and a boasted prerogative unaccountable, after seven years' warring and destroying of his best subjects, overcome, and yielded prisoner, should think to scape unquestionable, as a thing divine, in respect of whom so many thousand Christians destroyed should lie unaccounted for, polluting with their slaughtered carcasses all the land over, and crying for vengeance against the living that should have righted them? Who knows not that there is a mutual bond of amity and brotherhood between man and man over all the world, neither is it the English sea that can sever us from that duty and relation : a straiter bond yet there is between fellow-subjects, neighbours, and friends. But when any of these do one to another so as hostility could do no worse, what doth the law decree less against them, than open enemies and invaders ? or if the law be not present or too weak, what doth it warrant us to less than single defence or civil war ? and from that time forward the law of civil defensive war differs nothing from the law of foreign hostility. Nor is it distance of place that makes enmity, but enmity that makes distance. He therefore that keeps peace with me, near or remote, of whatsoever nation, is to me, as far as all civil and human offices, an Englishman and a neighbour: but if an Englishman, forgetting all laws, human, civil, and religious, offend against life and liberty, to him offended, and to the law in his behalf, though born in the same womb, he is no better than a Turk, a Saracen, a heathen.

25. This is gospel, and this was ever law among equals; how much rather then in force against any king whatever, who in respect of the people is confessed inferior and not equal : to distinguish therefore of a tyrant by outlandish, or domestic, is a weak evasion. To the second, that he was an enemy; I answer, what tyrant is not? yet Eglon by the Jews had been acknowledged as their sovreign, they had served him eighteen years, as long almost as we our William the Conqueror, in all which he could not be so unwise a statesman, but to have taken of them oaths of fealty and allegiance; by which they made themselves his proper

subjects, as their homage and present sent by Ehud testified. To the third, that he had special warrant to kill Eglon in that manner, it cannot be granted, because not expressed; it is plain, that he was raised by God to be a deliverer, and went on just principles, such as were then and ever held allowable to deal so by a tyrant, that could no otherwise be dealt with.

26. Neither did Samuel, though a prophet, with his own hand abstain from Agag; a foreign enemy, no doubt; but mark the reason : “ As thy sword hath made women childless;” a cause that by the sentence of law itself nullifies all relations. And as the law is between brother and brother, father and son, master and servant, wherefore not between king, or rather tyrant, and people? And whereas Jehu had special command to slay Jehoram, a successive and hereditary tyrant, it seems not the less imitable for that; for where a thing grounded so much on natural reason hath the addition of a command from God, what does it but establish the lawfulness of such an act ? Nor is it likely that God, who had so many ways of punishing the house of Ahab, would have sent a subject against his prince, if the fact in itself, as done to a tyrant, had been of bad example. And if David refused to lift his hand against the Lord's anointed, the matter between them was not tyranny, but private enmity, and David as a private person had been his own revenger, not so much the people's: but when any tyrant at this day can show himself to be the Lord's anointed, the only mentioned reason

why David withheld his hand, he may then, but not till then, presume on the same privilege.

27. We may pass therefore hence to Christian times. And first, our Saviour himself, how much he favoured tyrants, and how much intended they should be found or honoured among Christians, declared his mind not obscurely; accounting their absolute authority no better than Gentilism, yea, though they flourished it over with the splendid name of benefactors; charging those that would be his disciples to usurp no such dominion; but that they, who were to be of most authority among them, should esteem themselves ministers and servants to the public. Matt. xx. 25 : “ The princes of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them;" and Mark x. 42 : “ They that seem to rule,” saith he, either slighting or accounting them no lawful rulers; “ but ye shall not be so, but the greatest among you shall be your servant.” And although he himself were the meekest, and came on earth to be so, yet to a tyrant we hear him not vouchsafe an humble word: but, “ Tell that fox,” Luke, xiii. “ So far we ought to be from thinking that Christ and his gospel should be made a sanctuary for tyrants from justice, to whom his law before never gave such protection.” And wherefore did his mother, the virgin Mary, give such praise to God in her prophetic song, that he had now, hy the coming of Christ, cut down dynastas, or proud monarchs, from the throne, if the church, when God manifests his power in them to do so, should rather choose all misery and vassalage to serve

« AnteriorContinuar »