CHAPTER 2 – Plan of the Hebrew Government
Having premised the principal views and intentions of erecting the Hebrew government, and of its civil polity, we may proceed to consider the government itself.
The Hebrews were intended to be a nation, which should preserve the knowledge and worship of the one true God, in opposition to all idolatry. Therefore it was to be a distinct Kingdom, separate from the idolatrous nations everywhere about it.
This was to be a government formed for the peace and prosperity of the subjects of it, to have these blessings secured by a particular protection of Jehovah, their God and their King, they keeping to the Constitution of his government, and in obedience to his laws. It was a government designed to continue for many hundred years, the Scepter was not to depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh came. They were to enjoy their religion and their own polity, till a better Constitution should take place in the Kingdom of Messiah. This was then to be an establishment for above fourteen hundred years.
The wisdom of this policy, you perceive, is principally to be seen in two provisions. This first was for the preservation of the peace, prosperity, and power of the Hebrews, as a distinct nation, from all invasions of foreign nations, and from all ambition of great men, or popular sedition among themselves to destroy either. The other was to provide for the preservation of the true religion, and to keep out idolatry, that it might not infect this people, as it had already all the other nations of the world.
The wise provision made for both these ends will best appear by considering the true form of this government, as God appointed it by his servant Moses. This alone is the true plan of it, which must be carefully distinguished from all deviations from it, or corruptions of it, whether under the Judges, the Kings, or the Macchabees; so that whatsoever may be found among any constitutions, or in any acts of the administration in those times, that may justly be blamed or censured, they are solely to bear the blame. An original Constitution, different from them, will be altogether free from it.
Property is the natural foundation of power, and so of authority; hence the natural foundation of every government is laid in the distribution of the lands or territory belonging to it, to the several members of it. If the Prince is proprietor of the lands, as in some Eastern governments, such Prince will be absolute; for all who hold the lands, holding them of the Prince, and enjoying them at his will and pleasure, are so subject to his will, that they are in a condition of slaves, not of free subjects. If the property is divided among a few men, the rest holding of them, and under them as vassals, the power and authority of government will be in the hands of those few men, as a nobility, whatever authority may be lodged in the hands of one or more persons, for the sake of unity in counsel and action; but if the property be generally divided near equally among all the members of the society, the true power and authority of such government will naturally be in all the members of that society, whatever form of union they may have, for the better direction of the whole as a political body.