« AnteriorContinuar »
tions the privilege of "leading a quiet and peace"ableKse, in all godliness and honesty," and mentions it, as one end they should have in view, by complying with the exhortation in our text;—It needs no argument to prove, that the particular sovereign, under whose administration that end can only be reached, has a sirst claim to the exercise here recommended.
For foreign princes, the concern of Christians should be regulated, according as circumstances do, or may, direct. All of them have a title from this apostolical warrant, to the "supplications, "prayers,' intercessions, and thanksgivings," ofvChristians, in as sar as their spiritual and eternal good require: if unconverted, their conversion to God, through Jesus Christ, mould be the burden ©f the exercise under view; and if the fruits of conversion are brought forth by them, then "giv"ing of thanks" is the Christian's province and duty. If they are joined in a friendly alliance with the sovereign, under whom Christians "lead "a quiet and peaceable lise," the exercise of this concern may, with greater sasety, be extended to the temporal, as well as spiritual interests of such princes. But if upon the opposite side, or merely neutral in the public controversy, the Christian's concern, for their outward prosperity, must not be inconsistent with what is due to their own sovereign, and the community of which they make a part. •
With these limitations, it is highly worthy the Christian character, and particularly expressive of the Christian temper, to extend the concern, here recomended by our apostle, to kings in general, and all in authority under them.
Perhaps this view of the matter maydiffer,—widely differ, srom what even Christians themselves have
heen accustomed to think and practise; but'if it has a foundation in the New Testament, as a part of the counsel of God, it mould be honestly declared, and suitable compliance with it uuivei sally obtained. If- it is the will of God, that "all men "mould be saved, and come to the knowlege of the "truth, -hew do Christians instruct their conformity to that will, if they have no concern for the salvation of others, whatever thtir station or character, whatever their connections ot-political system? Such an unbounded compassion-, can, with no degree of: justice, be. constructed as, any how, subversive of the special interest in their concern, to which their immediate superiors have an indisputable right; nor is it, in the least, inconsistent with that interest, unless it could be alledged, that none
•of opposite nations.and alliances from them, can have a place in the better world, where—entire, universal, everlasting concord, harmony and friend
• ship, invariably reign; which is soabiurd in itself, and so contrary to the very genius of the gospel, that, to the most luperficial student of the scriptures, it must, at first light, appear.
The influence of kings over their subjects, and of those in authority over the inferior tribes ot'
.men, at once accounts for the apostle's recommending them, so explicitly, to the concern of the churches of Christ; for though no natural nor political parents, can transfer grace toiothers, their authority and example may have incredible influence on aa external reformation, if not on men's seeking after the like precious grace with themselves. Hence, an inspired politician assures ns, that "when the "righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: "butwhen the wicked bear rule, the people mourn," Prov. xxix. 1. According to this view, when Chiislians.exercise a proper concern for the reforF 6 mation rination of kings, and those in authority, their concern, in effect, reaches to all, without distinction, whose principles and practices may be bettered by it.
With regard to ourselves; though, as men, all nations; as Christians, the whole Christiau world; ard, as Protestants, every country and kingdom distinguished by that name, should ly upon our hearts, and have a share in our concern at the thron of grace; yet, my brethren, as Britons, joined to those other relations, our British sovereign has a peculiar title to the concern expressed in this exhortation.
It re impofsible to think—of his juvenile years, his tigh station, his important office, the variety and weight of business laid upon him, the critical conjuncture of affairs at his accession to the throne, the temptations with which he must be surrounded, the common enemies of liberty and true religion, against whom he is our royal guardian, and to think of the very acclamations of loyalty and pleasure, so universally heard amongst his loving subjects; it is impossible to think of these things, without discovering the propriety of " supplications, prayers, "and intercessions," in his behalf. If expofed to eVih» not only in common with others, as men, bur, peculiar to the pinnacle of dignity and eminence, upon which, as an imperial monarch, he stands,— can the necessity of deprecation bear the smallest dispute? And if he not only needs gifts and graces, with the exercile and improvement of them, as the man and the Christian; but, as the king and the supreme magistrate; are not prayers for him equally needful, and', by his subjects, a tribute proportionally due? Intercessions, therefore, in both these views, becon>« the duty of the subjects, as
thtj they are, by apostolical authority, the right and privilege of the sovereign. *
Nor is thanksgiving, aipdn the occasion, to be neglected, or periormed without the warmest sentiments of love and gratitude to God. Many circumstances, my brethren, in this noticeable providence, conspire to enforce that duty, to excite that exercise, and to oVain an universal compliance with this part of our apostle'sexhortation.
Can we reflect on the preservation of our late sovereign, until the years of his royal successor's majority were more than numbered? Can we think of the British throne being now filled with a native of our happy isle? Can we hear of such regards to true Christianity appearing'in him, as are not common to his years, sar less to his exalted station? Can we understand his royal purpose to lay out himself, and make it the business of his life, to preserve our invaluable privileges, and transmit them entire to posterity? Can we learn from bis own mouth, that, in discharge of the trust reposed in him, he resolves to depend on the advice and assistance, not of his council alene, but of every honest man? In a word, can we, of this part of the united kingdom, be certainly informed of his undertaking, by oath, to secure us in the free ex» ercise of the Presbyterian religion, according to our constitutional laws? Can we advert to these things, without, at once, seeing cause, feeling and expressing sentiments, of manifold gratitude to God our Saviour, for all his benefits?
There is something, my brethren, in our very constitution itfelf, that, on every unprejudiced mind, must have a constraining influence, toward the end of the exhortation being reached. Instead of an absolute monarch, whose will is the only law, and whose subjects are hereditary staves,, our iiagnst sovereign vereigo has the distinguished glory of governing a free people, the least of whom is protected by the laws, in such a manner, that, until condemned by his own peers, he cannot be put to death. The very possessions, as well as persons, of Britons are so desended, that the meanest subject cannot be forced, without a parliamentary authority, to part with his • own property. And, though the whole executive, and a principal stiare in the legislative, power, is lodged in the British monarch, it is neither his prerogative to counteract established laws," nor solely to impose new statutes: nay, the sovereign's claims i upon those over whom he sways the scepter, must be made, and can only be effected, by due course of law ; arid, what crowns our privileges as British subjects, the sovereign himself, in his officers of state, may be sued, and cast in his own courts. "When such a'happy constitution is compared with that of other nations, how dear, to us, stiould our sovereign be, who has accepted the regal office, upon conditions so sase for the subjects, as well as honourable for himself? And with what distinguishing insamy does their ingratitude deserve to be branded, who make no conscience of the Christian duties of "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanks*' givings," for him.
But, while the British monarch is so restricted by law,, "as the loyal and obedient subject has nothing to sear, he is justly cloathed with such power >nd authority, as, from every thinking person, must challenge veneration and respect. Besides the whole executive power of the laws, which includes the right of silling every chair in the different courts of judicature, his sole prerogative extends to the making of peace or war, sending or receiving ambassadois, tnteiing into leagues and treaties with foreign* states, convoking, adjourning, proroguing,