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those which are given to regulate the inmost workings of our souls towards God. And we should be essentially wanting in our duty as Christian pastors, if we did not take occasion, especially from the interesting events of this day", to open to you a subject of such great and universal importance. The words which I have read will lead me to shew you, I. Our duty in relation to civil governmentCivil government is an ordinance of God,
[It is called, in my text, an ordinance of man" and so it is, as far as relates to the particular form of government established in any particular kingdom. In some countries absolute monarchy is established: in our own, a limited monarchy. In some, there are republics; in others, the power is vested in an aristocracy. In fixing the precise mode in which the affairs of any nation shall be administered, the agency of man has been altogether employed : God having never interposed by an authoritative mandate from heaven, except in the case of the Jewish people. The history of our own nation sufficiently informs us, that the changes which take place in human governments are the result of human deliberation, or of human force. Yet, in its original appointment, civil government proceeds from God himself. He has ordained, that man shall not be left in the state of the brute creation, every one independent of his fellow, and every one at liberty to follow the bent of his own inclinations, without any regard to the welfare of others: but that power shall be vested in some for the good of the community; and that every one shall be responsible to that power for his own conduct, as far as the welfare of the community is concerned. St. Paul expressly tells us, that "there is no power, but of God; and that the powers that be, are ordained of Godb.”] To it we are to submit, “ for the Lord's sake”
[Power must, of course, be delegated to a great variety of persons, and in different degrees: and to it, in whomsoever it is vested, or in whatsoever degree, we are to yield that measure of submission which the laws require. We owe allegiance, primarily, " to the king, as supreme;" and, subordinately, to all other classes of magistrates or governors, who are appointed by him for the exercise of his authority in their respective jurisdictions. The obedience which we are to pay
a The Coronation of George the Fourth, July 19, 1821. But it might be applied to the King's Accession, or 30th of January.
b Rom. xiii. 1.
may be rendered more easy, or more difficult, by the personal character of him who exacts it: but it is due, not to the man, but to the office; and therefore it must be paid, even though the man who executes the office may be far from deserving the homage he requires. If only we recollect that Nero was the governor of the Roman empire at the time that the Apostle wrote his epistle to the Church at Rome; and that towards him, notwithstanding his great cruelty and his bitter persecution of all who bore the Christian name, the Apostle required all to shew the utmost reverence and submission; we shall see that there is no room for any person to withhold allegiance from the reigning monarch on account of any thing that there may be offensive in his personal character. The words of the Apostle are most decisive on this point: every
soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power," cven though it be exercised by a very Nero, “resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Nor does this observation extend to the supreme governor alone; but to all, according to the measure of authority that is vested in them: and it is not only from fear of their displeasure that we are to render them this homage, but " for conscience' sake, or, as my text expresses it," for the Lord's sake."]
How “the Lord” is interested in our performance of this duty, will appear, whilst we consider, II. The grounds and reasons of it,
We are bound to yield submission to civil government because of, 1. Its being altogether of God's appointment
[The institution of government is from him, as has already been shewn. Moreover, the power that is exercised by earthly governors is God's authority delegated to men, who are constituted his vicegerents upon earth. It is not man therefore, but God, whom we are called to obey: it is God, I say,
in the person of the civil magistrate. We are to "submit" ourselves to man; "for so is the will of God:” and, in rendering to man the service that is due, we are to consider ourselves, not as the servants of men, as the servants of God.”
What need we further than this, to evince the indispensable necessity of submitting to civil government, and of obeying implicitly the laws which are enacted by the constituted
c Rom. xii. 1, 2. e Numb. xvi. 11
d Rom. xiii. 5. 1 Sam. viii. 7. with Rom. xii. 4.
authorities of the realm? If we are to obey God in the duties of the first table, so are we in those of the second also : and if, “ for the Lord's sake,” we are to submit ourselves to the religious ordinances of God, so are we, with equal readiness, for his sake, to submit ourselves to every civil ordinance of man.] 2. Its conduciveness to the public welfare
[Though authority may not always be exerted for the best ends, it is committed to men solely with a view to the public good. It is ordained for the restraining and “punishing of evil-doers," and for the protection and “ benefit of those who do well." I need not occupy your time with shewing how great a mercy it is to live under an equitable and active magistracy, who are engaged in enforcing the observance of the laws. Let us suppose only that the laws were suspended through the land for the space of three days, and that every one were left to follow the bent of his own will without fear and without restraint: what misery, even during that short space of time, would pervade the whole kingdom! What scenes of rapine, and violence, and lust, and cruelty, would pervade the whole country'! Who would not be crying out for the restoration of legitimate authority, and bless God the very moment that he was permitted once more to experience the benefits of civil government? Who would not then feel happy in discharging his duty to that government, by a just payment of tribute and of custom, for the support of the legitimate authorities, and of the public weal? Then should we need no arguments to prove, that partial restraint is universal liberty; and that true freedom can be found only in such an exercise of our powers, as will consist with the freedom and happiness of all around us.] 3. Its tendency to recommend religion
[God has special respect to this ; as we should have also: “ It is His will” that we should fulfil this duty, “ that by welldoing we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” The Jews were generally considered, and with great justice too, as averse to civil government, especially as maintained by heathens. They had received a civil code from God himself: and they could not endure that any thing should be withdrawn from it, or added to it. They had also been under a Theocracy8; even their kings being, as subordinate magistrates,
s An awful picture of this state, when there was no king in Israel, “but every one did that which was right in his own eyes,” may be seen in Judg. xvii. 5—10. xix. 1, 2, 22—30. xx. 1–48. and xxi. 1-25. A juster picture cannot be conceived.
8 1 Sam. xii. 12.
appointed by him. They judged, therefore, that all other authority was an usurpation; and they were ready at all times, if possible, to throw off a foreign yoke. This being the known character of the Jews, (though it was in direct opposition to the command which God himself had given them, to “seek the peace of the cities to which they should be carried captive, and to pray for them",") it was supposed that the same character attached to them after they became Christians, and that, in fact, it was the habit of the whole Christian world. It was in vain that Christians denied this imputation: their enemies were ignorant, wilfully ignorant, of their principles; and continued, in spite of all remonstrances, to load them with this reproach. Now,' says the Apostle, it is the will of God that you should cut off all occasion for this calumny; and though you cannot hope to convince “ignorant” people, who do not know, and “ foolish” people, who will not learn, yet you may, " by well-doing, put them to silence;" and so “ muzzlei" their ignorance and folly, that they may not be able to open their mouths against you.'
This should be an object near to the heart of all the Lord's people ; and they should labour to accomplish it,
for the Lord's sake."]
After viewing your duty in this light, you will be prepared to consider, III. The manner in which it should be performed
It should be performed,
(Christians were “ free," and had a right to assert their freedom. But, from what were they free? from obedience to civil magistrates ? from those bonds which hold all society together? No: God forbid. They are, in these respects, under the same restraints as all other people under heaven. But, as Christians, they were free from the yoke of bondage, to which they had been subject in their Jewish state; and the command of God to them was, “ Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondagek." In like manner, those who had been converted from heathenism were freed from the various superstitions which, under their former state, they had been bound to observe: and though they should be under heathen governors, yet were they absolved from all allegiance to them in this respect, being now placed under the higher authority of God himself. Daniel, and the Hebrew Youths had done well in resisting the authority that would have kept them from honouring the true God, or have compelled them to transfer his honour to any created object. And the Apostles, when forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus, did well in answering, “ Whether it be right to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye?.” The same liberty is transmitted to us alsom: and froin whatever quarter a command may come, to omit what God enjoins, or to do what he forbids, our answer must be, “ We ought to obey God rather than menn." But we must be careful not to make this liberty of ours
b Jer. xxix. 7.
k Gal. v. 1.
a cloak for wickedness,o” and, under pretence of asserting our Christian liberty, to withhold from our civil governors that reverence which is their due. This is an observation of vast importance. There is in the human mind a restlessness and impatience of controul : there is also a proneness to enlarge or contract the bounds of duty, and the consequent demands of conscience, according as interest or inclination may bias our minds. Who does not see this as exhibited in others? and who has not reason to suspect this, as harboured in himself? I am well aware that this is a delicate subject, and especially when promulgated amongst persons who live under a free constitution, and have been taught to venerate the very name of liberty with an almost idolatrous regard. But the caution is the more necessary, on that very account: for, in proportion as we are tenacious of liberty, we are in danger of transgressing the bounds which God has prescribed, and of deluding ourselves with an idea, that we are only exercising the rights of British subjects, when we are, in fact, indulging a restless and factious spirit; a spirit, which, if it were opposed to us, we ourselves should be the foremost to condemn: for there are no persons more ready to cry out against the exercise of liberty in others, than those who are most clamorous for the maintenance of it in themselves. Let the Apostle's caution, then, be well received, and duly attended to. We are all concerned to "know what spirit we are of,” and to do that only which God himself will approve: and let me not be thought to be advocating the cause of a party, whilst I declare what is really and truly the mind of God. We are greatly exposed to self-deception in this matter. And we have seen it prevailing, to a very awful extent, in this kingdom, not only at the time of the French revolution, but at more recent periods. We have seen religious persons uniting with those who were openly regardless both of God and man, and with an unhallowed zeal countenancing the most lawless
1 Acts iv. 19.
m That Christians are free from guilt and condemnation, and from the power of sin, is all true ; but nothing to the present purpose. n Acts v. 29.