Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/155

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that the Apostle speaks in this passage of actual authority, can you maintain that, in other passages of a similar kind, he speaks only of legitimate authority? Or how can you, without sin, designate as King, in a solemn address to God, one whom you cannot, without sin, promise to obey as King? These reasonings were unanswerable; and Sherlock soon began to think them so; but the conclusion to which they led him was diametrically opposed to the conclusion to which they were meant to lead him. He hesitated, however, till a new light flashed on his mind from a quarter from which there was little reason to expect any thing but tenfold darkness. In the reign of James the First, Doctor John Overall, Bishop of Exeter, had written an elaborate treatise on the rights of civil and ecclesiastical governors. This treatise had been solemnly approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, and might therefore be considered as an authoritative exposition of the doctrine of the Church of England. A copy of the manuscript was in Sancroft's possession; and he, soon after the Revolution, sent it to the press. He hoped, doubtless, that the publication would injure the new government; but he was lamentably disappointed. The book indeed condemned all resistance in terms as strong as he could himself have used; but one passage which had escaped his notice was decisive against himself and his fellow schismatics. Overall, and the two Convocations which had given their sanction to Overall's teaching, pronounced that a government, which had originated in rebellion, ought, when thoroughly settled, to be considered as ordained by God and to be obeyed by Christian men.[1] Sherlock

  1. See Overall's Convocation Book, chapter 28. Nothing can be clearer or more to the purpose than his language

    "When, having attained their ungodly desires, whether ambitious kings by bringing any country into their subjection, or disloyal subjects by rebellious rising against their natural sovereigns, they have established any of the said degenerate governments among their people, the authority either so unjustly established, or wrung by force from the true and lawful possessor, being always God's authority, and therefore receiving no impeachment by the wickedness of those that have it, is ever, when such alterations are thoroughly settled, to be reverenced and obeyed; and the people of all sorts, as well of the clergy as of the laity, are to be subject unto it, not only for fear, but likewise for conscience sake."

    Then follows the canon

    "If any man shall affirm that, when any such new forms of government, begun by rebellion, are after thoroughly settled, the authority in them is not of God, or that any who live within the territories of any such new governments are not bound to be subject to God's authority which is there executed, but may rebel against the same, he doth greatly err."