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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

That that which is in its own nature mutable


We own the obligation of our sacred covenants, unrepealably and indispensibly binding to all the duties of christian subjection to magistrates. But we deny, that hereby we are bound either to maintain monarchy, especially thus perverted; nor to own the authority of either of the two monarchs that have monarchized or tyrannized over us these twenty-seven years past. For as to the first, we assert, That that which is in its own nature mutable, cannot be simply sworn unto to be maintained and preserved, but hypothetically at most, else it were simply sinful; since it were to make things in their own nature, and in the providence of God changeable, unchangeable; yea it were a downright swearing not to comply with, but to spurn against, the various vicissitudes of divine providence, the great rector of the universe. And it is unquestionable, that when things alterable and unalterable are put in the same oath, to make the engagement lawful the things must be understood, as they are in their own nature, and no otherwise: else both the imposer and the taker grievously transgress; the former, in taking upon him what is in the power of no mortal, and a contradiction to the prerogative of the immortal God; and the other, in owning that power as just. Hence when these two fall to be in the same oath, they must be so understood as it may not be made a snare to the conscience of the swearer. For it may fall so out in the providence of God, that the preservation of both is in all respects made
impossible: and an adhesion to the one, may so far interfere with the preservation of the other, as if the mutable and that which hath no objective obligation to be stuck to the other, which with the loss of all interests we are to maintain, must be abandoned; yea, that which was sworn to be maintained as a mean only, and a mutable one too, may not only cease to be a mean, but may actually destroy the main end, and then it is to be laid aside, because then it inverts the order of things. Hence also it may be questioned, if it were not more convenient, to leave out those things that are alterable in themselves, out of the same oath with things unalterable, and put them in a distinct oath or covenant by themselves; as we see Jehojadah did 2 Kings xi. 17. 'He made a covenant between the Lord, and the king, and the people, that they should be the Lord's people; between the king also and the people.' Here are two distinct covenants; the one made with God, about things eternally obligatory, wherein the king and people engage themselves upon level ground to serve the Lord, and Joash the king, his treacherous dealing with God in that matter, brought the curse of that covenant upon him: the other covenant was civil, about things alterable relating to points of government and subjection. And as he, by virtue of that prior covenant, had obliged himself, under the pain of the curse thereof, to carry as one covenanted to God with the people, and so not to tyrannize over his brethren: so, the people, by virtue of that same covenant, were to yield obedience, but in nothing to acknowledge him, as having power or authority to countermand God's command; neither had it been an act of disloyalty, to have broken down his groves, which he had, with the addition of the guilt of perjury, set up, and to have bound his ungrateful hands from the blood of the gracious Zechariah: a perfect parallel to our case under the former dominator, save that it was outdone as to all dimensions of wickedness by him. To speak more plainly, the religious part of our covenant is of an eternal obligation; but as to the civil part, it is impossible it can ever be so, unless it be well and cautiously understood; that is, unless instead of any species of government, as monarchy, &c. we put in

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