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suspicions, as to that connexion, must be wholly groundless. We know so little of natural connexions, that there are but few cases wherein we can safely say, this can or cannot, be the cause of that. But as all the powers of nature are known to God, and as he can supernaturally annex his graces or assistances to what means he pleases, we may be sure all means of his appointment must be efficacious, though we do not, cannot, see how. Fasting is in itself a thing morally indifferent; but if God should enjoin it, and we by experience should find it, when religiously practised, exceedingly conducive to the reduction of our inordinate affections, and to the ardour of our devotions, we ought to think it'equally conducive to our liberty, on the supposition that a heart warm only to God, enjoys the highest freedom, though we cannot see, how effects so purely spiritual are produced by a cause altogether corporeal. In like manner, the being sprinkled with water, or the receiving of bread and wine, are things perfectly indifferent in themselves, as to our souls; yet may be so applied to religious purposes, and so connected with God's grace, as to produce by methods wholly inconceivable to us, such happy effects as it would be high presumption in us to hope for, without the promise and appointment of God.
Whom now, or what are we to obey; for obey we must, as we neither are, nor ever can be, absolutely independent? Shall we, in order to be free, associate with the libertine, who flies to infidel haranguers, as he does to lewd women; and to irreligious books, as he does to a bottle; who goes a whoring after loose principles, and fuddles his understanding with the sweet poison of unbelief; who thinks it freedom to wallow in stupidity and corruption, as long as an insensible conscience can give countenance to his gaiety? What, in the name of common sense, is liberty, if this is not slavery? Does liberty consist in a total subversion or extinction of reason ? Is it an irretrievable servitude to lust and passion ? If it is, then the worst man is always the most free; and he only is at liberty, who ought to lie for ever in chains. Let us not if we have any affection for liberty, join ourselves to such a slavish crew. Let us not be frightened at the name of government; nor, because passion and appetite have in themselves no tincture of order or government, imagine we shall be free under their influence. Although such masters cannot rule, they can conquer, they can captivate, they can torture and oppress. Any one of them, if indulged to an excess, will turn a tyrant; that is, a governor, without a rule to govern by.
No: let us voluntarily give the reins to him who made us, because we know he is gracious; or, at least, prudently, as men who have a just apprehension of his power. Him we must either obey for his goodness, or fear for his indignation. Our subjection to him depends not on our will; but our obedience he leaves to our own free election. Since we 'must be subject, ought we not also to obey ?' But why should we deduce our duty from our subjection ? Is it not perfect freedom to serve him? Is it not joy and rapture to please him? Are we so mean-spirited as to stoop to the service of the creature, who were born for that of the Creator; or so stupid as to call this slavery, and that freedom ?. We only want a little grandeur of soul to fill us with disdain for the pitiful masters, that may have hitherto usurped a dominion over us, and with a just indignation at ourselves for having meanly crouched to a servitude, every way infamous and shameful. This will be sufficient to make us shake off the despicable yoke. If to this we add a little true ambition, it will teach us to look upward, and aim our services at an object, infinitely amiable and excellent, infinitely great and glorious; whom to serve is not only liberty, but honour and grandeur. And, for our encouragement, there is no master, whom it will be so much in our power to please, if inclination be not wanting ; because his yoke is easy, and his burden light;' because he loves us,' and because he hath promised to assist us.
Let us, therefore, humbly apply to him for the aids of his Holy Spirit, that, strengthened by his all-powerful grace, we may be delivered from the slavery of sin, and raised to the service of him, who is the Lord of lords, and the King of kings, the only eternal and adorable God; to whom be all service and duty, all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
RELIGION NECESSARY TO CIVIL SOCIETY.
1 Pet. 11. 17.
Fear God. Honour the king.
Though these, considered in themselves, are two distinct and independent precepts; yet they seem to be so connected in this place by the apostle, that the latter may be looked upon as the consequence of the former; not only because it is placed immediately after it, and therefore, for coherence' sake, must be supposed to be some way deducible from it; but because it follows in the nature of things. The king can never hope to be effectually honoured, where God is not feared; and therefore the apostle bids us, a little above, 'submit ourselves to every ordinance of man' (i. e. every law imposed on us by proper authority) for the Lord's sake ;' to whom belongeth all power, and whom if we duly fear and l'everence, we cannot but obey those who act under him, and share his power in this world.
Agreeable to this, is that passage in chap. xiii. of the Epistle to the Romans, where St. Paul bids every soul be subject to the higher powers;' for this reason, because ' there is no power, but of God;' and because he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God ;' and 'they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.' It is for this reason that we must needs be subject, ' not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.'
It cannot be denied, that the Christians of the first age hąd reasons, peculiar to themselves, for honouring the king, and obeying the civil magistrate; such as, to prevent persecution ; and to shew the world, that they did not intend to stir up rebellion under pretence of introducing a new religion. These, no doubt, the two apostles had in view, when they delivered the precepts already cited; especially St. Paul, who was then writing to such converts to Christianity as lived immediately under that power, which it would have been most scandalous and most dangerous to provoke.
But, besides these, they intended chiefly to apply our religion to the assistance and preservation of civil government in general ; commanding all Christians, by virtue of their faith in Christ, as they feared God, and expected to be judged by him, to honour and obey the king, i. e. to observe the laws, to preserve the peace of society; and to submit patiently to whatsoever the supreme governor should think proper to lay upon them.
This was putting their civil obedience upon the same footing with their religious; and teaching them to make the whole strength of their Christian principles as useful to the state in this life, as they were to their souls in order to the next. This was backing their reverence of the king with their fear of God, and threatening eternal damnation to rebellion.
This doctrine, thus strongly inculcated, intimates also to us the true origin or basis of civil power, which is God. He is the sole owner and proprietor of all power, particularly of the civil. •By him kings reign, and princes decree justice. He is the Lord of lords, and King of kings. Through whatsoever channels of election, compact, conquest, or hereditary right, the civil power is derived, from this its only source, it still belongs to God, and must be accounted for to him. Now, that which the absolute supremacy of God thus authorizes, the nature of man renders perpetually necessary. Considered in himself, and without respect to God, as his supreme governor, he can neither subsist in society, nor out of it. How can a creature, so crooked and so untoward as we are in our dispositions, so corrupt and wild by nature, converse together with safety? And how, on the other hand, can creatures, so infirm and helpless as each of us is by himself, subsist apart from the rest of mankind ? Our natural wants call us together, indeed, with a voice as pressing as necessity can make it; but, at the same time, selfishness, lust, pride, resentment, with a large train of violent appetites, and fierce desires, in a manner forbid all commerce with one another. It is in vain to deny, that the present nature of man, before it is moulded into a better form
by religious culture, and taught to fear and obey Almighty God, places him in this unhappy situation. His natural ignorance likewise, not only of religion, but a thousand other articles of knowledge, necessary to him in every condition of life, makes it still more evident, that, unless he hath the benefit of instruction, which God and society only can give him, he must perish, long before he can possibly acquire a competency of knowledge. Hence it may appear, that he is as absolutely dependent on society, as society is on God, for subsistence. We cannot live out of society; nor can society subsist without laws and sanctions; nor is that to be expected without magistrates. And after all, there is no integrity to be expected from the magistrates, nor honesty and obedience from the people, unless an infinitely wise, just, and powerful Being, is believed to superintend and govern the whole.
So then religion is so far from dwindling down into mere human laws, and civil government, or vanishing into mere morality, according to the senseless and wicked notion now in vogue, that civil government is no government, and morality an empty name, if they do not both borrow their
very soul and being from religion. When we say civil power is derived from God, we do not mean, that, like a person who once founded a kingdom, and dying, left it to his successors, he hath retired from the government, and given up his supreme authority to a succession of men. No; he is always on the throne. He interferes in all that passes ; and, were it not generally believed that he does so, the race of mankind must either perish off the earth ; or God must, contrary to the infinite majesty of his being, and contrary to the whole scheme of nature, assume a sensible appearance, and interpose miraculously on every particular occasion. But, without doing this, the very subsistence of society shews, he not only was the origin, but still is, and must be, the basis, of civil power; insomuch that it is impossible to assign any one act of authority in the community, wherein God is not visible to a thinking mind. From what hath been said, it follows, that the utmost care ought to be taken, in every society, to turn the attention of all its magistrates and members strongly on God's continual inspection, and future judgment,