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ROMANS xii. 18.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

II. THE second argument to prove the unlawfulness of all war is taken from that prophecy, in Isaiah ii. 4, where it is said of those that shall live in the times of the gospel, that they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Answ. But to this I answer;

1. That prophecies only foretell the future event of things, but determine nothing concerning either the lawfulness or unlawfulness of those things.

2. If these words are understood literally, that after the coming of the Messias war shall every where cease; then they prove nothing, but what the Jews pretend to prove by them, which is, that Jesus Christ is not the Messias; forasmuch as since his coming, we have seen no such thing as a general cessation of war over the world.

For the explication of this place therefore we must observe; that in scripture, things have those effects ascribed to them which they have a natural fitness to produce: though by accident, and other impediments, they never actually produce them. Thus, because the gospel delivers such precepts to 32the world, which if men would live up to, there would certainly ensue such an universal peace and tranquillity; therefore the production of such a peace is ascribed to the gospel, though, through the vice and corruption of men, the case of things fall out to be much otherwise.

But it may be replied, that then, however, those who obey and live up to the precepts of the gospel, ought to abstain from all war: whence it follows, that, according to those precepts, war is unlawful.

I answer, that upon supposition of such an absolute obedience to the doctrine of Christ, war indeed would not be lawful, because the very ground and occasion of it would be taken away, by the inoffensive behaviour of one man towards another. But the dispute is here concerning what is lawful to be done, when the generality of the world live not according to the tenor of this doctrine, but invade the rights of others. In which case I affirm, that the gospel rends not from any the privileges of a natural defence, and the prosecution of justice in a lawful war.

As for instance, the gospel, as much as any doctrine can do, makes provision that there should be no thieves or murderers in the world, by a prohibition of those unhallowed courses: but yet when it falls out that men obey not those prohibitions, but engage in such practices, surely it does not strip the magistrate of all right to animadvert upon such offenders, but leaves the axe as sharp, and the gibbet as strong as ever it was under the law. This exception therefore concludes nothing.

But then by the way, for the further clearing of the text from the Jews’ objection, raised out of it 33against Jesus Christ’s being the Messiah; besides what has been said, I add further, as to the very literal impletion of the prophecy, that when it is foretold that a thing shall come to pass in the time of the gospel, it is not necessary to understand that it must happen immediately upon the introduction of it, and be always to be found in the world, during the continuance of the gospel: but it is sufficient if it come to pass and be fulfilled in any period of it. And who knows but before the world ends, God may give the gospel such a progress over the earth, and withal such a mighty influence upon the hearts of those that profess it, that there may be such an universal peace to be seen amongst all nations, and such glorious halcyon days, as the very literal purport of these prophecies seems to exhibit to us. From whence I infer, that we must first see an end of all things, before the Jews’ objection can be admitted to prove what it does intend.

III. The third argument for the unlawfulness of war is taken from that place in Matt. xxvi. 52, where Christ commanding Peter to put up his sword, tells him, that all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword. From whence it follows, that since Christ allowed not his disciple the use of the sword, and that upon such an occasion as the defence of his master, and him also the Lord and Saviour of the world, certainly he would not allow of it as lawful upon any other occasion whatsoever. To this I answer, that the sense and meaning of every speech is to be limited to the subject-matter of it, and also to be measured by that which first occasioned the utterance of it. Now Christ reprehends Peter, because that by an unwarranted, though 34perhaps a well-meaning zeal, and without any leave, either had or asked from Christ himself, he flew upon the high priest’s servant in that manner. The words therefore, howsoever uttered in general terms, signify only thus much; that those who without any call or warrant from the lawful superior power, but merely by the instigation of an hot zeal, and an hotter head, shall presume to use the sword, such shall perish by the sword. But this concludes nothing against the lawfulness of those men’s waging war, who come to it armed with the authentic call of the supreme magistrate, to whom God has committed the defence of the subject, and the administration of justice. It is indeed a dagger in the throat of their cause, who can dare to raise armies, ruin countries, and subvert governments, upon no other commission, than the impulse of a furious ambition and a pretended inspiration.

IV. The fourth and last argument for the unlawfulness of war may be framed thus: That which proceeds from a sinful cause, and produces sinful, unlawful effects, that itself is unlawful. But so does war. For the sinfulness of its cause, we have an account of that in James iv. 1, Whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts? And for the unlawfulness of its effects, we need only survey our own experience, without recurring to any further histories to inform us what dismal cruelties, rapines, and outrages, are the constant, inseparable attendants of war. Now for that which issues from so evil a beginning, and draws after it such evil consequences, it is certainly very strange, if it should not be in an high degree evil itself. But to this I answer,


1. As for that place of St. James, it speaks only of personal quarrels and dissensions between particular men, and not of national hostilities managed by the public conduct of the magistrate: which only is the thing here disputed of.

2. But secondly, admit that the words may be extended to national hostilities and wars between people and people; yet the apostle speaks only of what usually are the causes of war; and not, what are so of necessity, and according to the nature of the thing itself: which, though on one side they are unlawful, namely on that which gives the offence; yet on the other, the causes of it are not. always men’s lusts; but a rational defence of their country, and a due vindication of public justice.

In a word, it is one thing to speak of war, as actually it uses to be managed, and another to speak of it, as it ought and may be managed. And this affords also an answer to the second part of the argument, concerning those sad and sinful effects that follow it, as unjust violences, rapines, cruelties, and the like. Of all which it is to be said, that they proceed only from the corruption and vice of those who manage it, but are utterly extraneous to the nature of war, considered precisely in itself. I know no action so good and allowable but may derive a contagion by passing through ill hands. But we are not to judge of the nature of any thing or action by that which is only accidental to it. The nature of war consists properly either in the repelling of an intended, or the revenging of a received injury. But whether this be done with unjust rapines and hideous cruelties upon the innocent, or duly and justly, the nature of war is still the same: the 36 quality is indeed altered from just to unjust, but that amounts to no more than the ill performing of a thing in itself indifferent.

And thus I have answered all the arguments that to me seem to be of any moment to prove the absolute unlawfulness of all war; upon the strength of which answers, I think I may reckon upon it as a proved assertion, that war is not a thing in itself unlawful.

I suppose nobody will conclude the foregoing discourse to have been a commendation of war, much less an exhortation to it. It is indeed a lawful, but a sad remedy. And I think there is none who looks upon it as a sufficient argument to persuade him that the cutting off a leg or an arm is a desirable thing, because it is better to do so, than to have a gangrene spread itself over the whole body.

Caustics and corrosives may be endured, but certainly the causes that make them necessary are not to be chose. War can be desired only in the nature of a remedy, and a remedy always supposes an evil. And I know no argument so strong to prove the lawfulness of war, but that war itself is a stronger argument to prove the worth and the convenience of peace.

I have now done with the first general inquiry, concerning the measures by which the great duty of peaceableness is to be determined: which was, Whether war could be at all lawful? I come now to the second, which is to inquire, upon supposition that it may be lawful, When and where it ought to be judged so? And here I shall,

First, lay down some general grounds that may authorize war. And,


Secondly, descend to the resolution of particular cases.

For the first of these, I shall lay these four general grounds of the lawfulness of it, premising first what is the nature of peace.

Peace is properly the mutual forbearance of acts of hostility or annoyance, in order to the preservation of our nature in all its due rights and capacities.

It is clear therefore, that peace is a means or instrument designed only to such an end. Now that ceasing to be able to compass this end, to which it is designed, ceases also to be an instrument or means, and consequently to engage us to use it: whereupon it is lawful to enter into a contrary estate, namely, of hostility or war.

From whence follow these assertions, as so many general grounds of it.

1. When those with whom we are at peace declare that they will annoy us, unless we cut off our limbs, and injure and mangle our bodies; and accordingly upon our refusal disturb us; as Nahash the Ammonite did to the men of Jabesh Gilead, offering them peace only upon condition that they would let him thrust out their right eyes, 1 Sam. xi. 2; it is in such a case lawful to repel and resist that force or disturbance. For every one has a right to preserve his limbs and the faculties of his nature.

2. When those with whom we are at peace declare war with us, unless we will renounce our religion, and, upon our refusal, do so; (which is the case of the pope’s exposing the dominions of those whom he calls heretics to the invasion of other princes;) it is then lawful to repel and resist that force or invasion. 38 The reason is, because every man has a natural right to the use of that which he apprehends indispensably to conduce to his chiefest good: and that is his religion.

3. When one nation injures another to that degree, as to blast its honour and reputation, it is lawful to revenge that public breach of honour by a public war. The reason is, because the honour of a nation is as absolutely necessary to the welfare and support of it, as its trade or commerce; it being indeed the great instrument of both, and perhaps also of its very safety and vital subsistence: it being seldom known that a government, dishonoured and despised abroad, did long preserve itself in credit and respect at home.

4. When those with whom we are at peace declare war with us, unless we will quit our civil rights, as our estates and families, and the protection of the laws, and accordingly upon our refusal do so; it is lawful to enter into war with those who make such encroachments upon us. The reason is, because when civil societies are constituted and submitted to, every man, so submitting to them, has a natural right to the conveniences and enjoyments of such societies.

Now the foundation of the lawfulness of war in all the forementioned cases is, because whatsoever a man has a lawful right to possess or enjoy, he has by consequence a right to use all those means which are absolutely necessary to the possession or enjoyment of that thing.

You will say now, that, according to this doctrine, when the prince encroaches upon his subjects’ bodies, estates, or religion, they may lawfully resist or oppose him.


This objection brings in the resolution of the first particular case proposed by us to be discussed, which is, Whether it be lawful for subjects in any case to make war upon the magistrate? My answer to it is in the negative; and the reason is, because the subject has resigned up all right of resistance into the hands of his prince and governor.

And for this we must observe, that as every man has naturally a right to resist any one that shall annoy him in his lawful enjoyments, so he has a general, natural right, by which he is master of all the particular rights of his nature, so as to retain them or recede from them, and give them away as he pleases.

Now when a man consents to be a subject, and to acknowledge any one for his governor, he does by that very action invest him with all the necessary means of being a governor; the chief of which is, a quitting and parting with that natural right of resisting him upon any occasion whatsoever.

And every man consents to have such an one his governor, from whom he covenants to receive protection, and to whom he does not actually declare a non-subjection.

This being laid down, it follows, that it is not more natural for a man to resist another particular man, who would deprive him of his rights, than it is natural for him not to resist his prince upon the same occasion. Forasmuch as by a superior and general right of nature, he has parted with this particular right of resistance: and consequently, having given his prince the propriety of it, he cannot any more use it, unless his prince should surrender it back to him again; which here is not supposed.


And this is the ground upon which I judge a resistance of the supreme magistrate both unlawful and irrational. But there have not been wanting in the world scholars to teach, as well as soldiers to act the contrary. Such as have weakened the ties of government, and shook the supremacy of princes, by prescribing of cases in which this duty of nonresistance binds not the subject; and by which they are so discharged of their allegiance, as to be let loose to carve for themselves, and to restrain their superiors.

But before I come to survey any of their opinions, I shall premise this rule or maxim: that those whom the people have a right of proceeding against, so as to punish them by law; those also they may proceed against by war and open force, in case that legal course of proceeding be obstructed.

The reason is, because war is a remedy upon the default of law; and therefore, where the coercive power of the law cannot have its effect, war is to take place, and supply the want of it: Ubi judicia desinunt, incipit bellum, says Grotius in his second book de Jure Belli, cap. i. sect. 2.

Upon which ground it is, that one private man cannot revenge an injury upon another by open force, the law being open for him to right himself by; but one nation may by force and war revenge an injury done to it by another nation, because there is no provision of a coercive power stated by a law between them, by which one nation may implead the other, and so have a reparation of an injury made it by the sentence of a common judge. Now I premise this observation to shew, that whosoever teaches that the people may judicially proceed against and punish their prince, the same person does by 41consequence affirm that the people may also take up arms against him, when they cannot otherwise bring him to such a judicial process.

This being observed, I cannot but set before you those several cases assigned by Grotius in his first book de Jure Belli, and fourth chapter, in which he asserts it lawful for the people to proceed against their prince. As,

(1.) When, according to the professed constitution of the government, the prince is accountable to the people, as in Lacedaemon, where the people owned a coercive power over their king, which power they deposited in the hands of their ephori; who, by virtue thereof, restrained the king at the people’s pleasure.

(2.) When a prince quits and relinquishes all right of government: after which action, he says, the prince may be dealt withal as any other private man.

(3.) When he would transfer and alienate the right of government to another: in which endeavour, he says, the subjects may hinder, and by force resist him.

(4.) When he actually attempts the destruction of all his people.

(5.) When he holds the grant of the sovereignty from the people upon conditions, and fails in the fulfilling of those conditions.

(6.) When the prince holds but part of the supreme power, the senate or people holding the other part: in which case, if the prince invades that part of the sovereign power not belonging to him, those to whom that part does belong may resist him. According to this doctrine, those amongst us who 42taught that the king was one of the three estates, and that the parliament was a power coordinate with him, did by consequence teach, that in some cases they might make war upon him; and their practice was not short of their doctrine.

(7.) When, in the conferring of the sovereignty to a prince, the people declare, that in certain cases it shall be lawful for them to resist him: and the reason is, because he who transfers his right to another, may transfer it upon what terms or under what reserves he thinks fit.

This seems of near affinity with the fifth instance, but it is not altogether the same: for the former is suspended upon the prince’s not doing of something which he conditioned to do; but this speaks not of the prince’s action, but of some events of affairs, under which the people put in caution, that their subjection to him should cease.

These aphorisms I had rather rehearse than animadvert upon; the great reputation of the author making all censures upon him, though perhaps true, yet unhandsome.

But the foundation which he had laid a little before, in the seventh section of the same chapter, seems large enough to bear all these superstructures, and many more.

For proposing the question, Whether the law of not resisting the magistrate binds the subject in a great, imminent, and extreme danger? he answers, that most laws, human and divine, though running in absolute terms, yet imply a condition of relaxation in cases of extremity. And for this law, of not resisting the magistrate, he says it sprung first from the consent of the people, who, for the benefits of 43government and society, resigned themselves up to the absolute disposal of a sovereign; which people, he says, had they been asked whether they would have chose rather to die, than in any case whatsoever to resist their sovereign with an armed power, he conceives they would never have owned that to have been their will or intention; and consequently, that the sense of that law, which is to be measured by the sense of those from whose consent it took force, ought still to be supposed to imply an exception in cases of extreme danger. And accordingly he concludes, in the eighty-seventh page, that for his part he could not condemn a people, under such a danger, so defending themselves: that is, by a resistance of the magistrate; for that is the thing that he is debating of expressly, and exemplifies it by the Maccabees defending themselves with an army against Antiochus.

This assertion, I am apt to think, in the full improvement of it, would widen itself to a very strange latitude. But thus much may be said for this author, that he breathed a popular air, and lived a member of a commonwealth, which needed such maxims as these to justify its being so.

But David Paraeus has, with a much more barefaced impudence, flown in the face of sovereignty, in a set and long dispute upon Rom. xiii. a strange text, one would think, to preach rebellion upon. His arguments therefore I shall briefly examine and remove, and so conclude this question.

The whole discourse stands upon these two propositions.

Prop. I. The first is, that it is lawful for the inferior magistrates to resist and punish the supreme; 44and some of the cases in which they may do so are these.

1. If he blasphemes God, or causes others to do so. 2. If he does the subjects some great injury. His words are, si ipsis fiat atrox injuria; a term of a very large comprehension, and it is hard if any pretence cannot clothe itself with this name. 3. If the subjects cannot freely enjoy their lives, estates, and consciences.

This, I say, subverts all government; for, if the prince may be punished, it follows,

(1.) That he is not supreme; for all punishment, as such, is an act of the superior upon the inferior.

(2.) If the inferior magistrates may punish him, then they may also judge when he is to be punished; and consequently the prince is never secure, since it is in their power to judge this when they think fit; and they will undoubtedly think it fit, when they find it for their advantage.

His reasons for this doctrine are principally these two.

1. He lays down this division: kings are absolute or by compact; and subjoins, that there is none in Europe, but is by compact, and upon conditions. Upon this he reasons thus; that such a prince, violating the conditions upon which he holds the sovereignty, may be judged by the people or senate that made him prince, upon those conditions.

To this I answer, first, that those who hold the supremacy upon any such conditional grant, upon default of these conditions, may indeed be made accountable to their people; but then I deny that either the kings of England, France, or Spain, hold 45their kingdoms by any such compact. Yet, because the kings of England take an oath at their coronation to govern by such and such laws, which in case they should not, Milton, and such others, are so bold as to absolve the subject from his allegiance; I shall, to dash that puritan, antimonarchical tenet, lay down this distinction; that it is one thing for a king to promise to manage his kingly office according to such rules, and another thing to take upon him the kingly office upon condition that he so governs: it is this latter only that would render him accountable to his people; but the former, if not fulfilled, is not breach of an antecedent condition, but only breach of a subsequent promise, for the sin of which he is answerable only to God.

2. The other reason for the inferior magistrate’s resisting the supreme is this; because they are joined with him as associates in the government, and God has committed the defence of the people to them in their order; by virtue of which commission, they are to defend them against the supreme magistrate himself, if a tyrant, as well as against any other: forasmuch as being intrusted with the people’s defence, it matters not who the persons are, against whom they are to be defended.

But to this the answer is ready, by a positive denial of that false and base principle, that the inferior magistrates are associates with the supreme; and that God immediately commissions them to govern and defend the people. For they are not the prince’s associates, but his instruments in government, and have no power but what they receive immediately from him: and that he who acts by authority from another, cannot by that authority act against him, 46whose will and gift is the alone cause of that authority, is too clear to need any proof.

It would be too long particularly to insist upon his other reasons to this purpose; I shall reduce them therefore to general heads, annexing to each their respective solutions.

(1.) He argues from several scripture instances; as Ehud killing Eglon, and Jehu killing Joram.

(2.) From many instances of the heathens; as the Romans deposing Tarquinius.

(3.) From several speeches of princes, acknowledging a kind of dependence upon, and an accountableness to their people. To which I answer,

1. For those scripture instances and examples, that most of them are set down without any approbation or disapprobation, but only by a bare historical narration; and withal, that the honesty of the person does not legalize every one of his actions. And perhaps it can no more be said, that to depose or kill a prince is just, because Ehud and Jehu did it, than, because David left Solomon in charge to revenge an old injury upon Shimei, a man may nowadays, having pardoned an injury, yet justly cause his son to revenge it. Add to this, that those persons are said to have done what they did by an especial commission or warrant from God; which men nowadays cannot pretend to.

2. In the next place, to his allegation of the example of the Romans, I answer, that it was unlawful, and that to use it here is to prove the lawfulness of one rebellion by another.

3. And for those several speeches and concessions of princes, acknowledging their right at the people’s dispose, I answer, that we are not to judge of the 47right of princes by what they may sometimes speak in flattery, upon design, or necessity. Besides, that the concessions this or that prince makes from his own right cannot prejudice or infringe the right of others. And thus much for Paraeus’s first proposition, by which we see how he has armed inferior magistrates, as sheriffs, constables, bailiffs, and the like, against their prince; and it is much, that he did not take care also for their calling of triennial parliaments. But does he stop here? no, he proceeds further in another proposition, which is this:

If the prince shall offer violence to the subject, as a tyrant, murderer, or adulterer, and there is no help to be had from any inferior magistrate, then it is lawful for every private man to defend himself vi et armis, as from a common thief or murderer.

This is wholesome divinity indeed; and it was not to be doubted, but that the former assertion would in the end produce this.

His reasons for it are these two.

(1.) Because what the inferior magistrates may do, that every private man may do in his own behalf, in a case of necessity. The consequence, I confess, is good, and therefore grant this to be just as lawful as I have already proved the former; that is, indeed, absolutely wicked and unlawful.

(2.) Because otherwise God would have put it into the power of the magistrate to destroy the commonwealth. To this I answer, 1. That the magistrate is but a particular man, and therefore cannot effect such a thing by himself, but by the assistance of others, against whom some are of opinion that the subjects may defend themselves. As amongst us, let any man rob or injure us, and although he be ever 48so much commanded by the king to do so, yet we have our action against him at law. But still those who hold that the king’s instruments, in any act of violence upon the subject, may be resisted, qualify their assertion with these two cautions: first, that the violence offered be apparent and notorious, such as no man endued with common reason can doubt of or deny; secondly, that the person of the king be still sacred and untouched: yet, since a king, without an absolute obedience to those instruments whom he shall think fit to employ, is but a mere mockery and an insignificant shadow; and since to make the subjects judges, when they are to obey persons so commissioned by him, and when to resist them, clearly opens a door to an insolent shaking off all subjection; I cannot think it safe to build any thing upon this assertion. 2. In the second place therefore I answer, that I see no inconvenience in granting, that that absolute authority which kings are invested withal, puts it within their power, by the abuse of it, to ruin the commonwealth. For if God puts it in the prince’s power to be able to preserve, undoubtedly the same power, misemployed, will be as able to destroy society: he indeed is to be responsible to God for his tyrannical abuse of his trust; but subjects, whether their subjection makes them happy or miserable, yet still are to be subjects.

And thus I think I have answered Paraeus’s discourse, in which he sets himself as a bold arbitrator between the prince and the subject, so stating the privileges of one, as utterly to subvert the prerogative of the other. The usual patrons of this doctrine against princes are the Jesuits, who are properly the pope’s janizaries; and those of the presbytery, whether 49at home or beyond the seas. But this opinion, that the supreme magistrate may be resisted by his subjects, I think none can confute so fully as the supreme magistrate himself.

II. The next case that comes to be resolved, according to the order proposed by us, is,

Whether it can be lawful for one particular man to make war upon another in those encounters which we commonly call duels?

A duel, called by the Greeks μονομαχία, and by the Latins duellum, receiving its denomination from the persons engaged in it, is properly a fight or combat between two persons, mutually undertook, appointed, and consented to, by each of them.

That the action is not a thing in itself absolutely unlawful is apparent, because otherwise it could not be lawful for two men, meeting in a battle, to fight one with another; nor for one man to fight for the defence of his life, with the murderer that assaults him. Since therefore this falls within the number of those actions, which, being indifferent in their nature, come to be stamped lawful or unlawful by their principles and circumstances, and other determining ingredients of action, we are to inquire when it is to be allowed, when not. In which inquiry we shall set down,

1. The cases in which a duel is lawful.

2. The cases in which it is impious, unlawful, and utterly to be disallowed.

(1.) First of all then, when two malefactors stand convict, and condemned to die, and the magistrate appoints them to fight singly; in which fight he that overcomes shall have his life: in this case it is lawful for persons so condemned to accept of such a fight. The reason is, because on either side it is only a mutual 50desire of doing execution upon a malefactor convict: and it is lawful for one malefactor, upon the warrant or allowance of the magistrate, to do execution upon the other.

(2.) When two armies are drawn out to fight, and the decision of the battle is cast upon a single combat, it is lawful for any two persons, upon the appointment of the generals, to undertake such a combat; the reason is, because it is allowable for soldiers under command to obey their generals in all things not apparently unjust: and a general has full power to draw out as much or as little of his army to fight, as he shall judge most conducible for the success; there being no ground to conclude, why he may not as well command one single soldier, as one regiment or body of men, to fight, how and when he shall judge fit. Besides the convenience of this course, that it is a compendium of war, and a redemption of the lives of thousands by the death of one, bringing all the advantages of a conquest, without the dismal miseries of a battle.

(3.) When one challenges another, and resolves immediately to kill the challenged person, unless he accepts the combat, it is then lawful for him to accept it; forasmuch as this is nothing else but a repelling of force by force, and so is resolved into pure self-preservation: which shall be considered of by itself afterwards.

But a case may be here propounded: Suppose one should accuse another for his life falsely, offering to verify his accusation by single fight, and the judge should declare that he would proceed to the sentence immediately, unless the person so accused would undertake thus to fight with his accuser in single combat.


In answer to this, some affirm that the accused person may lawfully accept the challenge, it seeming to be equally a repelling of force, and the result much the same, whether the accuser endeavours to kill the accused by his own hand, or by the unjust sentence of the judge.

But, with submission to better judgments, I conceive that it is not lawful for him in this case to accept the combat, the instances propounded being not indeed the same; for in one the danger is from the sentence of the judge, which, however unjust, a man is bound to submit to; in the other, the danger is from the force of a private person, which no man is obliged to submit to, but has a natural right to repel.

And if it be replied, that such an one is necessitated to fight with his challenger in his own defence, for that otherwise he must die; I answer, that this very thing implies, that the necessity or compulsion is not absolute, but only conditional, unless he will submit to death; which of the two he is rather to choose, than to commit a sin.

For the man is under a judicial process, and so has no right to defend himself by force: neither matters it to say, that the judge, by his permission or command, gives him a right; for the judge, by commanding or permitting him so to defend himself, unjustly balks his own duty, which would oblige him to decide the case of the innocent another way; and the judge’s going against his duty, by an unjust command, cannot give any man a right to do according to that command. If the man is condemned, and dies, he suffers; but if he fights with his accuser, when the law ought to deliver him, he acts, and that 52unjustly. And this is to be observed, that though a man, by the unjust sentence of a judge, is obliged to suffer an unjust punishment; yet he cannot, by any allowance or command of the judge, have any right or obligation to do an unjust action.

The sum of this case is, that a man, under the forementioned condition, is bound rather to die by an unjust sentence, than to take an undue course for his vindication.

2. I come now to shew those cases in which duels are to be judged utterly unlawful.

(1.) As first, when they are undertook for vain ostentation, and that either of affection to the dead; as it was the custom of the Romans heretofore, upon the death of some commander or great man, for some soldiers voluntarily to undertake a single fight at the funeral solemnities, and to kill one another, as it were, by way of sacrifice, in honour of the dead; by that, declaring their loss so great, that they had no will to survive them. It was a custom also, for ostentation of strength and valour at their public sights and shows, for persons to entertain the spectators with duels, and to die like fools, to please they knew not whom; till at length this wretched custom so prevailed, that some would hire themselves at the Praetorian shows, to fight thus in single combat, as men are nowadays hired to act upon the stage; and these were called gladiators, a term that grew to as great ignominy amongst the Romans, as thief or cutter is amongst us. I suppose I need not take any pains to prove the unlawfulness, nay, the sottishness of such duellings, where men sold their lives for a crown or an angel; and by a preposterous way of labouring, earned wages, not to get their living, but 53 to procure their death. It argued also, by the way, a strange savageness in the Roman temper, that men, women, and children should come with such eagerness to, and enjoy themselves with such delight at those barbarous spectacles, in which their chiefest diversion and recreation was to behold these duellers kill one another upon the stage. From which custom, as vile as it was, both on their parts that beheld, and on theirs that fought, most learned men are of opinion, that the use of duels, now so frequent, had its infamous original.

(2.) Another case in which men used to undertake single combats, was for the cleansing of themselves from some crime objected to them; which must needs be unlawful and highly irrational, as being a means no ways suited in its nature to such a purpose; and withal a bold presumption upon Providence, that any one, without any warrant from the revealed will of God, should presume that he must determine the success on the right side. For the ridiculous unreasonableness of it, besides the demonstrations of experience, that the guilty has frequently killed the innocent, it is further evident, from the very nature of the thing: for is there any natural inference, from a man’s strength or success, to his innocence? or is it any argument, that the man did not steal another’s goods, or defile his bed, because he had better skill at his weapon than his accuser, and so slew him? I should both abuse my own labour and your patience, should I endeavour to beat down this senseless custom by any further confutation.

(3.) A third case is, when two agree upon a single combat, for the decision of the right of possessing 54any goods or estate, mutually claimed by both, in which it is agreed that the right shall fall to the conqueror. This also is utterly unlawful, as being a course wholly extrinsical to, and unfitted for the decision of matters of right.

For in every doubtful case, there is yet a right on one side; and where there is a right, there a right may be proved: the proving of which belongs to the law, and the courts of justice; and he that seeks for law from his rapier, which he should seek from the judge, deserves to have his person instead of his case brought to the bar. No man has a right or power to choose the way of having his right tried, by any course not prescribed or permitted by the law.

He indeed whose right the thing is, may possess and defend it against him who is pleased to doubt of the other’s right; and in the defence of it may lawfully kill him in his unjust and violent invasion: but yet he may not voluntarily and by choice cast the deciding of his questioned right upon the issues of a single combat, a thing otherwise disallowed. The reason is, because though every man is master of his own right, yet he is not master of the way by which that right is to be tried; that being by all laws took out of private hands, and vested in the person of a public judge.

And to what purpose are courts open, and tribunals erected, if causes must be tried in the field, and inheritances conveyed by the decrees of a lawless combat and a contingent conquest?

(4.) The fourth and grand case is, when a duel is undertaken either for revenge of some injury done, or for vindication of a man’s honour, upon the account 55of some affront passed upon him. As for the first of these, all plea of lawfulness is taken from it, by what has been already said in condemnation of private revenge. And for the second, which is the defence of the great idol and Diana of the duellists, called honour; it is confessed that the case of the challenger, and of him that is challenged, is very different. And for the former, there are few that patronize or absolve him, under what pretence soever he may absolve himself. But for the latter, many fair allegations may be made: as, that he loses his reputation upon refusal of the combat; and that, as to the real concernments of life, and the advantage of his fortunes, he is thought unfit for any public command or preferment which requires a person of courage; he is despised, scorned, and trampled upon, by which the contents and comforts of life, dearer than life itself, are torn from him: but with a non obstante to all this, I affirm any acceptance of a duel in such a case to be unlawful. And, in answer to what has been alleged, I reply, first, that it proves only to be a difficult duty; such as the exercise of most virtues are, especially according to those straight lines of duty drawn by Christianity. For if every inconvenience attending the performance of a duty should change it from being a duty, where is the difficulty of being religious? How can any man be obliged to suffer for conscience sake, if fear of suffering unties the obligation?

The upshot of the dispute is, God by his providence, for the trial of a man’s sincerity, and his obedience to the divine law, calls him to an act of duty, beset with high dissuasives, grim circumstances, and great discouragements. So that the 56point lies here: Will you lose your soul, or your reputation, the favour of God, or the opinion of men? quit your hopes of eternity, or the momentary breath of a popular applause? I suppose here the weight and reason of the thing is sufficient to determine his choice, and to support his spirit in all the calamities that shall attend it.

Besides, that which is here supposed, which is loss of honour, is indeed no such thing: the measure of honour, is the judgment of the knowing, and the pious, and the virtuous, who will value and applaud the passive magnanimity of such an one, that durst look a duty in the face, in spite of scorn, and conquer the scoffs of the world, of which the most reputed for valour are afraid. All that he loses is the opinion of those who rate honour by a false rule, and measure glory by the standard of their own ignorance, vanity, and rashness: and the same persons who condemn him for this, would slight him as much for not talking obscenely, not scoffing at religion, and whatsoever is sacred, and for not drinking himself to the condition of a barrel or a spunge; or not rapping out such hideous oaths, as might even provoke divine justice to revenge the impiety of them upon a place or a nation. Those indeed who look upon the not doing of these things as pedantry, would, no question, account all refusal of a duel poorness and pusillanimity.

It was a wise, a prudent, and indeed a valiant answer of a certain commander, who being challenged by one of his enemies to a duel, told him, that he would meet him in the head of the enemy; which to a soldier was the true opportunity of fortitude, because indeed the scene of duty.


But he that has not the courage to puff at all popular surmises, and to esteem himself superior to the riots and mistakes of hectors; but by a foolish facility appears and ventures his life at the word and challenge of a furious sot, whose life is not worth the keeping, falls ingloriously, and descends to his grave with the burial of an ass; shame is his windingsheet, and the solemnity of his funeral, the reprehension of the wise, the pity of the good, and the laughter of his companions; who can make sport at the loss of a soul, and the miseries of damnation.

And thus I have shewn the several cases in which duels are unlawful; and I suppose I preach to an auditory that needs no other argument against them, than the demonstration of their unlawfulness; yet since other arguments there are, I think a truth cannot be too much confirmed.

1. And amongst these, the judgment of men generally condemning them is no contemptible one. I have already observed what an ignominious name the name of gladiator was amongst the heathen Romans: and in the laws of the Lombards, even while they permitted the use of those duels, they branded them with a mark of infamy. Incerti sumus de judicio Dei, et multos audivimus per pugnam sine justa causa suam causam perdere. Sed propter consuetudinem gentis nostrae Longobardorum legem impiam vetare non possumus. They called it an impious law, even while they suffered it to continue; and declared that they did so, because the corruption and vice of the nation was too strong for them, and beyond the control of remedies. The canon law, even to those that died in justs or tiltings, 58(which were but in a manner the shadows of a duel,) yet denied them the privilege of Christian burial, in the fifth book of the Decretals of Gregory, chap. i. de Torneamentis. And if you will, you may to these add the judgment of the council of Trent, orthodox enough in this matter, where their interest gave them no cause to be otherwise, sess. xxv. chap. 19. Detestabilis duellorum usus fabricante diabolo introductus, ut cruenta corporum morte animarum etiam perniciem lucretur, ex Christiano orbe penitus exterminetur. Were it as needful as it is easy, many more authorities might be added, to discountenance this profane practice: but I suppose these are enough to give more credit to the refusal of a duel, than can accrue upon the acceptance of it, from the opinion and vogue of debauched persons; whose infamy will not let their censure be a reproach.

2. But the second and chief argument shall be taken from the wretched consequences of the thing itself; which are twofold:

(1.) Such as attend the conquered person.

(2.) Such as attend the conqueror.

As for the conquered person, he is sure of these two evils.

(1.) A disastrous death. And surely it ought to be a very great gain that is to counterbalance the loss of life; something more than the reputation of not giving the wall, not enduring a slighting word or a trivial disrespect; which might otherwise have been confuted by silence, conquered by contempt, and outlived by the next hour.

But now all the labour and expense of a man’s former education, all the hopes and usefulness of his 59remaining years, the expectations of his friends, and perhaps the supports of a family, are lopt off at a blow, extinguished in a moment, with an overplus of misery from the sadness of the occasion.

It is a sad thing for any hopeful man, in the vigour of his years, to be carried off by a plague or a fever, or an unfortunate accident; but still all that is uncomfortable in these is, that the man is dead; but there is no criminal circumstance, from the manner of his death, to embitter his remembrance: he did not die by a sin, or by any thing that might stain his surviving name or endanger his future condition. It was the action of Providence, which piety will, and mortality must submit to.

But he that dies in a duel, so falls to the earth, that it is to be feared he falls much lower; and that the iron enters deeper into his soul than into his body, and kills much further than it reaches. And this introduces the other fatal consequence which attends the person thus vanquished, and that is,

(2.) Death eternal. When two persons come into the field upon such an expedition, they defy one another, they defy the laws both of God and man, and they defy hell: their business is, which shall send the other to that place of misery first. For certainly whosoever quits the body with the marks of murder and revenge fresh upon his soul, and passes from his conquering adversary to his dreadful Judge, shall in that world be condemned for a murderer, though it was his ill hap to be murdered in this.

Nay, there will lie a double charge of murder upon him: namely, for being both the unjust occasion of his own death, and the designer of his adversary’s: 60 for it is the design that makes the murderer, and not the event and issue of the action, which is wholly contingent and extrinsical to the will. For shall a man be therefore accounted no murderer, because he had less courage, less skill, or less luck than his opposite? because his purpose was stronger than his arm? or because his foot slipt, or his misguided rapier hit upon a rib, and kept the fatal point from the regions of life, and so gave the adversary opportunity to be more sure and mischievous in his thrust? All which plea or excuse amounts to no more than this, that he would have slain his adversary with all his heart, but was prevented, and could not.

I neither will nor dare pronounce any thing in limitation of the extent of God’s mercy; but this I shall say, that according to the standing rule and tenor of God’s revealed will, he that dies in a duel undertook upon an unjust cause, affords no ground for any one to judge that he is saved: for he dies in his sin, directing his sword to his brother’s heart; so that there is nothing but his last breath passing between his murderous intention and the final giving up of his accounts to God; before whom he has no other cause to allege for his dying in this manner, but that he was proud, passionate, or revengeful; sad qualifications to recommend a man to the tribunal of such a Judge.

We have seen here the miserable consequences that befall the conquered dueller. Let us now, in the next place, take a survey of those that befall the conqueror: and these also are three.

(1.) In case he is apprehended: the law has provided that for him which he did for his adversary, 61but in a more ignominious manner. The rope and the gibbet is to be his portion; die he must; and what honour a man wins or saves, by that which gives him an opportunity of being hanged, is hard to be understood; but he that mistakes the cart for a triumphal chariot, or the gallow-tree for a triumphal arch, may apply himself to the obtaining such victories as these.

(2.) But secondly, suppose that he escapes by flight; yet then he quits his country, and lives a banished man, and like Cain, having murdered his brother, he presently betakes himself to wander about the world, leaving behind him the confiscation of his goods, a family lamenting, and perhaps starving; and some of them peradventure dying for grief, and so feeling the murderous influence of his action as really, though not in the same manner, as his slain adversary.

Surely these will be sad accidents to a man in cold blood, when the fury of his passion, which abused his reason, and represented revenge so pleasant, shall be over, and transmit the thing naked to his recovered judgment, to be considered according to its real aspect and all its sharp events.

By this time, undoubtedly, he will see how much better it had been for him to have kept himself quiet and innocent in the peaceable enjoyment of his friends, his estate, and country; than to wander as an indigent murderer in a strange land, from whence the sense of his guilt, the severity of the laws, and the exasperation of the murdered person’s friends, ready to prosecute those laws against him, continually terrify him from all thoughts of a return.


(3.) But, in the third and last place, we will suppose the man to have better fortune: that he has fought and killed his adversary, and so satisfied his revenge; and moreover, that through the intercession of great friends, willing to share his guilt, and to derive some of the blood upon their own heads, he has not by flight escaped, but by a full acquitment outbraved justice, and triumphed over the law, and so stands secure as to all temporal retribution. But still, after all this, may we not ask concerning such an one, is all well within? How fares it with him in the court of conscience? Is he able to keep off the grim arrests of that? Can he drown the cry of blood, and bribe his own thoughts to let him alone? Can he fray off the vulture from his breast, that night and day is gnawing his heart, and wounding it with ghastly and amazing reflections?

Whether it is, that God has done it for the defence of men’s lives, or whether it is the unnaturalness of the sin, or whatsoever else may be the cause, certain it is, that there is nothing which dogs the conscience so incessantly, fastens upon it so closely, and tears it so furiously, as the dismal sense of blood-guiltiness.

The man perhaps endeavours to be merry, he goes about his business, he enjoys his cups and his jolly company: and possibly, if he fought for revenge, he is applauded and “admired by some; if he fought for a mistress, he is smiled upon for a day. But when, in the midst of all his gaieties, his conscience shall come and round him in the ear: Sir, you are to remember that you have murdered a man, and what is more, you have murdered a soul; you have sacrificed an immortal nature, the image 63of God, and the price of Christ’s blood, to a pique, a punctilio, to the loves of a pitiful creature, lighter than vanity, and emptier than the air: and these are the worthy causes for which your brother now lies in the regions of darkness and misery, without relief, without recovery; an eternal sacrifice to a short passion, a rash anger, and a sudden revenge.

Now when these reasonings shall be joined with the considerations of the divine justice, and the retributions that Heaven reserves for blood; these sad reckonings, that are in store for the successful acquitted murderer: believe it, where these thoughts shall lay hold of the conscience, they will leave their marks behind them.

But if the man feels none of these stings or remorses, his condition is infinitely worse: he is sealed up under a spirit of searedness, and reprobation, and an invincible curse. And it is a sign that God intends him not the grace of repentance, perhaps for denying his brother the opportunities of it, by a sudden death; and sending him out of the world in such a condition, that it were ten thousand times better for himself never to have come into the world, than that he should leave it under the like.

I have nothing more to say concerning such a person, but that his sin has put him into such an estate, that, living or dying, he is unavoidably miserable.

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