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BEFORE THE COURT OF TINWALD, 1725.
THE DUTY OF MAGISTRATES.
DEUT. i. 17.
Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man: for the See Exod.
18. 21; 23. judgment is God's.
3; Deut. 1.
16; Prov. This is part of that solemn charge which Moses gave to 16. 12; 21. the judges of Israel. The same in effect did good King Isaiah 29, Jehosaphat give to his judges ; “ Take heed what ye do: Amos 5.10; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with Gal. 1. 10; you in the judgment; wherefore, let the fear of the Lord be 2 Chron. 19.
6, 7. upon you.'
If this charge was necessary then, it certainly is so now, and will ever be so, as long as men are subject to weakness, to negligence, to corruption, or to passion; that is, as long as this world lasts.
The words of the text suppose this, Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; and proposes the only effectual antidote against such an evil, for the judgment is God's.
The words are few, but imply a great deal of instruction.
First; THE JUDGMENT is God's. Why then, the magistrate's power and authority is from God.
Secondly ; YE SHALL NOT BE AFRAID OF THE PACE OF MAN.
This teaches the magistrate his duty; namely, that he is not to pervert justice for any worldly consideration ; no, not for the fear of death.
Thirdly; the subject may here see the sin and danger of opposing, of disobeying, of vilifying, the magistrate in the due execution of his office. He is God's minister; his judg
SERM. ment, if just, is the very judgment which God would give;
God is with him in the judgment, and will certainly avenge him if he is despised.
And these are the things that I would, at this time, recommend to your consideration, in as few words as I can possibly express my meaning.
And first, for the authority of the magistrate. St. Paul Rom. 13. 1. tells us plainly, " the powers that be are ordained of God.”
They are, it is true, men of like passions with ourselves ; but
that does not hinder them from being God's representatives. Rom. 13. 6. They are expressly called in Holy Scripture, God's MINISProv. 8.15, TERS. “By me,” saith Solomon, “by me kings reign, and
all the judges of the earth;” that is, from God they have (Rom. 13. their power. “He, therefore, that resisteth, resisteth not 2.]
man, but God.”
And this is the magistrate's great security, especially amongst Christians, who all know, or should know, that disobedience to the lawful commands of a lawful magistrate will be attended with the severest punishment. For “they that resist,” saith the Apostle, “shall receive to themselves damnation.”
In short; God, the author of life and death, the great proprietor of all things, has given to certain persons power over the bodies, goods, estates, and even lives, of their fellowcreatures ; but then, lest these magistrates, finding themselves vested with so much power, should be tempted to abuse it, all nations, after the example of God's people, and by His will, have agreed upon laws to restrain and direct them.
And most nations, particularly this of ours, have made the law of God, by Moses to the Israelites, their pattern.
Now, if the magistrate judge and govern according to these laws, that is God's will and judgment; so that both the magistrate and people are answerable to God; the one, if he makes not the law his rule, and the other, if they live not in all dutiful obedience to those whom the providence of God has set over nem.
And therefore the Apostle adds, that we must obey authority—not only for wrath, that is, for fear of temporal punishment; but also for conscience sake; that is, out of regard to the law and will of God.
And happy it is, both for the magistrate and the people, that there are such laws in every society, that both the one and the other may have a rule to go by, a rule which does or should always speak the same language-to the poor and to the rich; to friends and enemies; to those that are wise, and to them that are simple and see not their interest.
It was for this reason, that the heathens represented justice with a veil over her face, intimating that a righteous judge ought never to consider the person, but the cause, that is before him.
And certainly there is no better way for a magistrate to secure the obedience and regard of the people, than to let them see, that they who are appointed to give the law, are themselves governed by law, and not by their own inclinations or wills. For the laws of all nations do suppose, that magistrates may be mistaken in their judgment, either through fear or favour, or negligence, or ignorance, or through weakness, or corruption; and therefore all laws have, as far as it is in the power of man, provided a remedy against such evils, by allowing an appeal from every inferior to a superior court.
St. Paul himself, than whom no inspired writer ever pressed obedience to government more earnestly, when he was most unjustly prosecuted for a faithful discharge of his duty to God, he appealed unto Cæsar, as to the last power, (Acts 25. and next under God, from whom he might expect a more
11.] equitable sentence.
Let us now consider, the ends for which magistrates have this great power given them by God. And these are, in short, the glory of God, and the good of their fellow-creatures.
It is for this reason, that in our daily prayers we beseech God, so to dispose and govern the hearts of such as are in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things, and in the first place, seek God's honour and glory; and in the next place, study to preserve the people under them in wealth, peace, and godliness. And every magistrate, that has not these things in his view, will have but a sad account to make to God, whose minister he is.
It is certain, all our laws were intended to secure these two ends; THE HONOUR of God, by punishing the breach of
SERM. His laws, by penalties suitable to the nature of the offence;
and THE GOOD OF EVERY MAN, by securing every man in the possession of his rights, till a better right appeared.
I wish one could say the same of all our precedents; but the reason of the difference is very plain :-laws are generally made with good advice, and with a view to the public good; but precedents are too often made with a view to particular interests, and sometimes by men of weak judgments; so that the reproach cast upon the commonwealth of Athens may too fitly be applied to other nations; namely, that their great wisdom appeared in their excellent laws, and their folly in taking pains to pervert them.
To prevent this, the kings and lords of this Isle first instituted This COURT OF TINWALD, that all inferior magistrates might have an opportunity of justifying their conduct, if they had acted uprightly, and agreeably to law, and might receive a just rebuke, if complaint were made that they had acted otherwise.
And this is exactly agreeable to an ordinance of the ancient Romans, which made that commonwealth so prosperous : for, to prevent carelessness, corruption, or negligence, in the interpretation or execution of the laws, the judges were obliged to lay their acts before the censors, that nothing might remain on record, but what the law should warrant.
A very excellent method, every body must own; and yet every Christian magistrate has much stronger obligations upon him, to be most exactly careful in the administration of justice :-ye judge not for man, neither for his approbation, nor for fear of his censure, but for the Lord. The JungMENT is God's, saith the text; that is, it ought to be the very same judgment, if possible, that God Himself would give. At least, a good magistrate must have this testimony of his integrity, that he honestly intend to give a judgment worthy of God, in whose place he stands ;-a judgment which he hopes God will approve of, and which his conscience will never reprove him for.
That it may be so, it is necessary, that every magistrate should not only, as in Jehosaphat's charge, take heed what he does; that is, be very careful to inform himself what is the