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power; whoever, I say, will consider popery as it is professed at Rome, may see, that it is manifest open usurpation of all human and divine authority. But even in those Roman catholic countries where these monstrous claims are not admitted, and the civil power does, in many respects, restrain the papal, yet persecution is professed, as it is absolutely enjoined, by what is acknowledged to be their highest authority, a general council, so called, with the Pope at the head of it; and is practised in all of them, I think, without exception, where it can be done safely. Thus they go on to substitute force instead of argument; and external profession made by force, instead of reasonable conviction. And thus corruptions of the grossest sort have been in vogue for many generations, in many parts of Christendom, and are so still, even where popery obtains in its least absurd form; and their antiquity and wide extent are insisted upon as proofs of their truth;-a kind of proof which, at best, can be only presumptive, but which loses all its little weight, in proportion as the long and large prevalence of such corruptions has been obtained by force.
Indeed, it is said in the book of Job, that the worship of "the sun and moon was an iniquity to be punished by the judge."* And this, though it is not so much as a precept, much less a general one, is, I think, the only passage of Scripture which can, with any color, be alleged in favor of persecution of any sort; for what the Jews did, and what they were commanded to do, under their theocracy, are both quite out of the case. But, whenever that book was written, the scene of it is laid at a time when idolatry was in its infancy, an acknowledged novelty, essentially destructive of true religion, arising, perhaps, from mere wantonness of imagination. In these circumstances, this greatest of evils, which afterwards laid waste true religion over the face of the earth, night have been suppressed at once, without danger of mistake or
* Job xxxi. 26, 27, 28.
abuse. And one might go on to add, that if those to whom the care of this belonged, instead of serving themselves of prevailing superstitions, had in all ages and countries opposed them in their rise, and adhered faithfully to that primitive religion, which was received" of old, since man was placed upon earth,”* there could not possibly have been any such difference of opinion concerning the Almighty Governor of the world, as could have given any pretence for tolerating the idolatries which overspread it. On the contrary, his universal monarchy must have been universally recognised, and the general laws of it more ascertained and known, than the municipal ones of any particular country can be. In such a state of religion, as it could not but have been acknowledged by all mankind, that immorality of every sort was disloyalty to him, "the high and lofty One that inhabited eternity, whose name is Holy ;"† so it could not but have heen manifest, that idolatry, in those determinate instances of it, was plain rebellion against him; and, therefore, might have been punished as an offence of the highest kind, against the supreme authority in nature. But this is in no sort applicable to the present state of religion in the world. For if the principle of punishing idolatry were now admitted amongst the several different parties in religion, the weakest in every place would run a great risk of being convicted of it; or, however, heresy and schism would soon be found crimes of the same nature, and equally deserving punishment. Thus the spirit of persecution would range without any stop or control, but what should arise from its want of power. But our religious establishment disclaims all principles of this kind, and desires not to keep persons in its communion, or gain proselytes to it, by any other methods than the Christian ones of argument and conviction.
These hints may serve to remind us of the value we ought to set upon our constitution in church and state,
* Job xx. 4.
† Isaiah lvii. 15.
the advantages of which are the proper subjects of our commemoration on this day; as his Majesty has shown himself, not in words, but in the whole course of his reign, the guardian and protector of both. And the blessings of his reign are not only rendered more sensible, but are really heightened, by its securing us from that pretender to his crown, whom we had almost forgot, till our late danger renewed our apprehensions; who, we know, is a professed enemy to our church, and grown old in resentments, and maxims of government, directly contrary to our civil constitution; nay, his very claim is founded in principles destructive of it. Our deliverance, and our security, from this danger, with all the other blessings of the king's government, are so many reasons for "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks," to which we are exhorted, as well as for all other dutiful behaviour towards it; and should also remind us to take care and make due improvement of those blessings, "by leading," in the enjoyment of them, quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty." The Jewish church offered sacrifices even for heathen princes, to whom they were in subjection; and the primitive Christian church, the Christian sacrifices of supplications and prayers, for the prosperity of the emperor and the state; though they were falsely accused of being enemies to both, because they would not join in their idolatries. In conformity to these examples of the church of God in all ages, prayers for the king, and those in authority under him, are part of the daily service of our own. And for the day of his inauguration a particular service is appointed, which we are here assembled in the house of God to celebrate. This is the first duty we owe to kings, and those who are in authority under them, that we make prayers and thanksgivings for them. And in it is comprehended, what yet may be considered as another, paying them honor and reverence. Praying for them is itself an instance and expression of this, as it gives them a part in our highest solemnities. It also
reminds us of that further honor and reverence which we are to pay them, as occasions offer, throughout the whole course of our behaviour. "Fear God, honor the king,”* are apostolic precepts; and "despising government, and speaking evil of dignities," apostolic descriptions of such as are reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished." And if these evil speeches are so highly criminal, it cannot be a thing very innocent to make a custom of entertaining ourselves with them.
Further, if we are to pray "that we may," that it may be permitted us "to lead a quiet and peaceable life," we ought surely to live so, when, by means of a mild, equal government it is permitted us; and be very thankful, first to God, and then to those whom he makes the instruments of so great good to us, and pay them all obedience and duty; though every thing be not conducted according to our judgment, nor every person in employment whom we may think deserving of it. Indeed opposition, in a legal, regular way, to measures which a person thinks wrong, cannot but be allowed in a free government. It is in itself just, and also keeps up the spirit of liberty. But opposition, from indirect motives, to measures which he sees to be necessary, is itself immoral it keeps up the spirit of licentiousness; is the greatest reproach of liberty, and in many ways most dangerous to it; and has been a principal means of overturning free governments. It is well, too, if the legal subjection to the government we live under, which may accompany such behaviour, be not the reverse of "Christian subjection; subjection for wrath only," and " not for conscience' sake." And one who wishes well to his country will beware, how he inflames the common people against measures, whether right or wrong, which they are not judges of. For no one can foresee how far such disaffection will extend; but every one sees, that it diminishes the reverence, which is certainly owing to
† 2 Pet. ii. 9, 10.
Rom. xiii. 5.
* 1 Pet. ii. 17.
authority. Our due regards to these things are indeed. instances of our loyalty, but they are in reality as much instances of our patriotism too. Happy the people who live under a prince, the justice of whose government renders them coincident!
Lastly, As, by the good providence of God, we were born under a free government, and are members of a pure reformed church, both of which he has wonderfully preserved through infinite dangers; if we do not take heed to live like Christians, nor to govern ourselves with decency in those respects in which we are free, we shall be a dishonor to both. Both are most justly to be valued; but they may be valued in the wrong place. It is no more a recommendation of civil, than it is of natural liberty, * that it must put us into a capacity of behaving ill. Let us then value our civil constitution, not because it leaves us the power of acting as mere humor and passion carries us, in those respects in which governments less free lay men under restraints; but for its equal laws, by which the great are disabled from oppressing those below them. Let us transfer, each of us, the equity of this our civil constitution to our whole personal character; and be sure to be as much afraid of subjection to mere arbitrary will and pleasure in ourselves, as to the arbitrary will of others. For the tyranny of our own lawless passions, is the nearest and most dangerous of all tyrannies.
Then, as to the other part of our constitution, let us value it, not because it leaves us at liberty to have as little religion as we please, without being accountable to human judicatories; but because it affords us the means and assistance to worship God according to his word; because it exhibits to our view, and enforces upon our conscience, genuine Christianity, free from the superstitions with which it is defiled in other countries. These superstitions naturally tend to abate its force: our profession of it, in its purity, is a particular call upon us to yield ourselves up
* Natural liberty, as opposed to necessity, or fate.