Verses 16–18

We have here a law for the limiting of the power of the prince in the disposing of the crown-lands. 1. If he have a son that is a favourite, or has merited well, he may, if he please, as a token of his favour and in recompence for his services, settle some parts of his lands upon him and his heirs for ever (Ezek. 46:16), provided it do not go out of the family. There may be a cause for parents, when their children have grown up, to be more kind to one than to another, as Jacob gave to Joseph one portion above his brethren, Gen. 48:22. 2. Yet, if he have a servant that is a favourite, he may not in like manner settle lands upon him, Ezek. 46:17. The servant might have the rents, issues, and profits, for such a term, but the inheritance, the jus proprietarium—the right of proprietorship, shall remain in the prince and his heirs. It was fit that a difference should be put between a child and a servant, like that John 8:35. The servant abides not in the house for ever, as the son does. 3. What estates he gives his children must be of his own (Ezek. 46:18): He shall not take of the people’s inheritance, under pretence of having many children to provide for; he shall not find ways to make them forfeit their estates, or to force them to sell them and so thrust his subjects out of their possession; but let him and his sons be content with their own. It is far from being a prince’s honour to increase the wealth of his family and crown by encroaching upon the rights and properties of his subjects; nor will he himself be a gainer by it at last, for he will be but a poor prince when the people are scattered every man from his possession, when they quit their native country, being forced out of it by oppression, choosing rather to live among strangers that are free people, and where what they have they can call their own, be it ever so little. It is the interest of princes to rule in the hearts of their subjects, and then all they have is, in the best manner, at their service. It is better for themselves to gain their affections by protecting their rights than to gain their estates by invading them.