(From The Spiritual Chymist, William Spurstowe, 1666). This an interesting discussion as to what a Puritan would have thought the duty of politicians:
Upon a Spring in a High Ground
The additional blessing which Achsah sought of Caleb her father was springs of water for her dry land, who gave her the upper and the nether springs. If the distinct recording of this particular Scripture Carry anything of importance with it, it is not that he gave her some portion of land that was well watered, As the low valleys for the most part art. And that he also gave such springs that by their high lying were apt to convey their stream to the enriching of other parts that stood in need of such help to make them fruitful.
Now what is it that can more commend a spring than a free diffusion of its waters and spreading of its moisture, not only to the grounds that are near, But to such as are at a distance from it; and what can more conduce onto this commodious usefulness then the Springs rise from some hill or place of ascent?
Another spring may haply serve to water some little spot I’ve ground, To benefit some private garden, but an upper spring will greatly advantage a large inheritance.
Such a late difference methinks there is in the moral wellsprings of grace and holiness as is between the natural, according to the diversity of subjects in which they are seated.
Grace and a poor man is as a nether spring, which is not less useful through a defective water let’s ruining capacity to make any large Communication of it in regard of the circumstances in which he stands. His wants, his paucity of friends, a the world takes of him, the slightings that poverty exposes most men unto, are all great obstacles to the eternal diffusions of his grace, though not to the intrinsical fulness of it. But Grace and a great person is like an upper spring, which may convey itself far and near, because of the many advantages which he has above others. His councils will sooner be hearkened onto, his reproofs will over-awe more, his conversation [manner of conduct, not just speech] Will win more, his example having the force of law.
So willing have many been to make greatness their pattern, as that they have imitated their infirmities. Dionysius’ courtiers affected to be purblind and jostle against one another that’s so they may be like their prince. Alexander’s followers would imitate him in their gesture, and go as if their shoulders were one higher than the other, because there was some inequality in his. Among the Persians, they were wont to highly esteem a long and narrow head because some of their kings’ heads of that figure.
Oh what pity is it then that the greatness in goodness should be ever out of conjunction together, or to be stars of different hemispheres, that are never seen shining at the same time? Yes, why should not those who are the highest among men affect also to be the best, that so they might bring a beauty and shine into the world, that they might allure others not only did the hold it, but also to imitate, by conforming themselves to their happy example?
It is the saying of Plutarch, that rare moralist, that God is angry with them that counterfeit his thunder and lightning; his scepter and his Trident; and his thunderbolts he would not have any meddle with: he loves not that any should imitate him an absolute dominion and sovereignty: but he delights to see them guarding for those amiable and cherishing beams of justice, goodness, and clemency. Without these things be conveyed down to others by those who have the reigns of power and government in their hands, though they look upon themselves as gods on earth, yet they are is unlike to the God of heaven as a blazing comment is to a bright and glorious sun, or deceitful glow worm to a heavenly star.
What low thought Solomon himself has of sovereignty when put into an ill hand, we may read in his book of the preacher, we’re he tells us that better is a poor and a wise child, then an old and foolish king who will not be instructed to manage his power and authority for the good of those that are under him.
It is wisdom that makes a man’s face to shine, most of all those that are in highest places. Good in them is most conspicuous, And both more applauded and imitated then in others. What evil can a king not forbid, whose wrath is as the roaring of a lion? What good can he not encourage, whose favor is as a cloud of the latter rain, which promises at a harvest of blessings.
I cannot but wonder at the great changes which this scripture reports to have been made by godly princess in the midst of a general apostasy, such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah who purged the land from a spreading idolatry and restored sabbaths, and temple worship to their power and purity, who have bowed the heart of the people towards them like to the top of a fisher’s angling rod, this way or that as it pleases them.
Who but princes that had grace in their hearts, and power in their hands could have ever affected such things as might well seem to be insuperable difficulty? Oh that I could therefore suggest such considerations that might prevail with all whose conditions God has raised above others, to be accordingly instrumental in the doing of good to others that move in the lower sphere. Shall I say, God expects it from you? If I do, it is no other than what he himself has spoken, when he has said, He will get him up to the great man, four they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God.
Or shall I say, that God signally commands it from you above others? Is it not to you that he particularly calls, Be wise now O ye Kings, Be instructed ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling, kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way.
Do you think that greatness does rather exempt from been obliged to obedience, or that you shall have a more favorable audit at the last day when every man must give an account of himself unto God? Be not deceived, God will require what you have done more from him about others, as he has for you about thousands, and will be on to you if you be found too light.
Your exultation in this life will serve only to make your casting down to be the more dismal in the other, and to confirm the truth of that proverb, that hell is paved with the corslets of noble men and the skulls of priests.