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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

Conscience is much concerned in the ends of magistracy


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of God, anointed of the Lord; judging not for man, but for the Lord, as the scripture speaks. To this conscience is concerned in duty to render honour as due, by the prescript of the fifth commandment; but for tyranny, conscience is bound to deny it, because not due, no more than obedience, which conscience dare not pay to a throne of iniquity, and a throne of the devil, as tyranny may be called, as really as magistracy is called the throne of God. Next, conscience is much concerned in the ends of magistracy, which are the greatest, the glory of God, and the good of mankind. And, in the effects of it, the maintenance of truth, righteousness, religion, liberty, peace, and safety, and all choicest external blessings; but the ends and effects of tyranny are quite contrary, domineering for pleasure, and destroying for profit. Can we think that conscience is nothing concerned here, that these great ends shall be subverted, and the effects precluded; and to that effect, that tyranny not only be shrouded under a privilege of impunity, but by our subjection and acknowledgement of it, as a lawful power, encouraged into all enormities, and licensed to usurp, not only our liberties, but God's throne by an uncontroulable sovereignty? But if we consider the subjective concern of conscience, it must be very graat, when it is the only thing that prompts to subjection, that regulates subjection, and is a bottom for subjection to lawful powers. If it were not out of conscience, men that are free born are naturally such lovers of liberty, and under corruption such lusters after licentiousness, that they would never come under the order of this ordinance, except constrained for wrath's sake: but now, understanding that they that resist the power, resist the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, they must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. If conscience were not exercised in regulating our duty to magistrates, we would either obey none, or else would observe all their commands promiscuously, lawful or unlawful, and would make no difference either of the matter commanded, or the power commanding: but now, understanding that we must obey God rather than man, and that we must render to all their dues, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour, conscience regulates us what and whom to obey. And without conscience there is little hope for government to prove either beneficial or permanent; little likelihood of either a real, regular, or durable subjection to it. The discernible standing of government upon conscientious grounds, is the only thing that can bring in conscience, and a conscientious submission to it; it being the highest and most kindly principle of, and the strongest and most lasting obligation to any relative duty. It will not be liberty of conscience, (as saith the late declaration for it) but reality of conscience, and government founded upon a bottom of conscience, that will unite the governed to the governors, by inclination as well as duty. And if that be, then there is needful a rule of God's revealed preceptive will, (the only cynosure and empress of conscience), touching the founding and erecting of government, that


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