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Degrees of Obedience.

1. The first is the obedience of our outward work: and this is all that human laws of themselves regard; for because man cannot judge the heart, therefore it prescribes nothing to it: the public end is served, not by good wishes, but by real and actual performances, and if a man obeys against his will, he is not punishable by the laws.

2. The obedience of the will: and this is also necessary in our obedience to human laws, not because man requires it for himself, but because God commands it towards man; and if it, although man cannot, yet God will demand an account. For we are to do it as to the Lord, and not to men, and therefore we must do it willingly. But by this means our obedience in private is secured against secret arts and subterfuges; and when we can avoid the punishment, yet we shall not decline our duty, but serve man for God’s sake, that is, cheerfully, promptly, vigorously; for these are the proper parts of willingness and choice.

3. The understanding must yield obedience in general, though not in the particular instance, that is, we must be firmly persuaded of the excellency of the obedience, though we be not bound, in all cases, to think the particular law to be most prudent. But, in this, our rule is plain enough. Our understanding ought to be inquisitive, whether the civil constitution agree with our duty to God; but we are bound to inquire no further: and therefore beyond this, although he who, having no obligation to it, (as counsellors have,) inquires not at all into the wisdom or reasonableness of the law, be not always the wisest man, yet he is ever the best subject. For when he hath given up his understanding to his prince and prelate, provided that his duty to God be secured by a precedent search, he hath also, with the best and with all the instruments in the world, secured his obedience to man.

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