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principles which are inculcated by the religion of Christ, to the maxims and deeds of the world. Let us endeavour to do all the good in our power to those around us, both to their bodies and their souls; exhibiting the life and influence of Christianity, not only by our words and outward profession, but in all our walk and conduct; that with well-doing we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men ; for so is the will of God 12 concerning His people. Did those who make a more than ordinary profession of religion thus shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life,13 it would assuredly advance the glory of our Redeemer, who has commanded His disciples, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.14 This is the way to overcome evil with good, to counteract the influence which sin possesses over our own minds, and those of others. Oh! that all who name the name of Christ may learn thus to depart from all iniquity ;15 that the misconduct of those who profess to believe the gospel of Christ, might no longer be a stumbling-block to others, and afford them a pretence for refusing to attend to the admonitions of the word of God, and the salvation of their own souls.
In reviewing the subject before us, we have
12 1 Pet. ii. 15. 13 Phil. ii. 15, 16. 14 Mat. v. 16. 15 2 Tim. ii. 19.
seen what Christianity enjoins on those who profess to believe its saving truths. Let us bring the matter home to our own consciences, and ask ourselves, Are we overcome of evil, or do we overcome evil with good ? It has been shown what is meant by being overcome of evil; that it consists especially in living in malice and envy, hatred and revenge: or in conformity to the corrupt maxims and evil practices of the world that lieth in wickedness; in obedience to the natural desires of the flesh and of the mind, and to the temptations of Satan, the adversary of God and man. This is the state of all who do not deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow Christ. If we are not partakers of a living faith in the Son of God, the great motive for obedience which the apostle brings forward in the beginning of this chapter can have no influence over us; our minds cannot have been impressed with the mercies of God, in the gift of His beloved Son to be our Redeemer; and we can have no real desire that the Spirit of God should be our Sanctifier, to conform us to the mind and will of God in all things. Let us then ask ourselves, What is our state before God? Are we reconciled to Him? Are we at peace with Him ? Have we a good hope that our sins are forgiven: us for Christ's sake? Are we anxious to ascertain this, or have we ascertained it? If the God of heaven be our Father, we shall endeavour to
live as His children. If we are washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, 16 we shall, like those who are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,17 glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God's.16 It is needful, therefore, to examine ourselves impartially by the word of God, not only whether we be in the faith, 18 or whether we believe the gospel of Christ; but also what are the dispositions of our minds, and what is the practice of our lives. If the Lord Jesus Christ be our hope for the pardon of our sins, and reconciliation with God, and the enjoyment of His favour, we shall also implore the Spirit of grace to enable us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ;19 we shall abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good, before both God and man. We shall dread being overcome of evil. We shall endeavour to overcome evil with good, both in regard to others and to ourselves. Let us then take the word of God for our directory, and pray that Divine grace may be vouchsafed to us, in order that we may be enabled to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, 19 to His glory and our comfort.
16 1 Cor. vi. 11,20. 17 1 Pet. i. 19. 182 Cor. xiii. 5. 19 Tit. ii. 12,10. SERMON XII.
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
DUTY TO RULERS.
Romans xiii. 7.
RENDER THEREFORE TO ALL THEIR DUES ;
TRIBUTE TO WHOM TRIBUTE IS DUE; cusTOM TO WHOM CUSTOM; FEAR TO WHOM FEAR; HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR.
The superior excellence of Christian morals to any which had been taught in the Gentile world, having been shown in the Epistles for the three first Sundays after the Epiphany, the apostle proceeds in the Epistle for this day, to inculcate the duty of professors of Christianity towards the rulers and magistrates of this world. A charge was made against our Lord Jesus Christ, when He was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, that He had disregarded this duty. His enemies declared, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar.20 In like manner the apostles of Christ were ac
cused as those that had turned the world upside down, and did contrary to the decrees of Cesar. 21
For the purpose of showing Christians that they were to avoid giving just occasion to accusations of this description, although they would be falsely charged with them by their enemies, the apostle Paul thought it needful to give very particular directions respecting the line of conduct they were to pursue, as members of society, in the community to which they belonged, whether by birth or by abode. He says, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. So likewise he directed Titus, as a minister of Christ, when addressing Christians, to put them in mind, to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates.22 In like manner St. Peter exhorted those to whom he wrote, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well; for so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.23
The reason why the children of God in particular are to be subject to the constituted authorities of the land in which they live, is, For there is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God. This is a sufficient con
20 Luke xxiii. 2. 21 Acts xvii. 6,7. 22 Titus iji.1. 23 1 Pet. ii. 13–15.