Imatges de pÓgina

with them; and that their most secret purposes and schemes, are "naked and opened to the eyes of Him, with whom they have to do;" (Heb. iv. 13.) whose "eyes are as a flame of fire;" (Rev. i. 14.) and that this "righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and his countenance approveth the upright." Ps. xi. 7.

A solemn sense of God in this tremendous character, cultivated in the minds of rulers, would banish a thousand temptations to venality and corruption. It would lead them to a humble review of their past behavior, that the errors of it may be repented of, and similar ones avoided, for time to come. It would make them afraid to indulge to any selfish and sinister designs, which militate against the public welfare, though they were sure to conceal them from the eye of men. The fear of God would check the fear of man, and prevent its prevailing on them, so as to ensnare them. They would not fear losing their places, by faithfulness in discharging the duties of them. They would consider, it is the favor of God that makes their mountain stand strong; that their times are in his hands; the date of their political, as well as natural life.

Rulers should look forward to that approaching day, when they must appear before God's august tribunal, and give account of all the talents he hath committed to them. They should endeavor to bring that day near in their meditations. It is apt to appear more distant than it really is, and so lessens to the eye of the mind, as objects do by their distance to that of the body. The word of revelation assures us, that "it is appointed for all once to die, and that after death is the judgment;" (Heb. ix. 27.) and that "every one shall give account of himself to God," (Rom. xiv. 12.) who is no respecter of persons; but will render to every one according to his deeds. It is an invariable rule, according to which God will proceed in the judgment, "that unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." Luke xii. 48. Rulers have much committed to them; unfaithfulness in the use of it, will render their guilt very great, and their doom very dreadful. If they are now conscious of being habitually and allowedly unfaithful, they may well tremble, as a wicked governor once did, upon hearing of a judgment to come.

But a prospect happily different from this-a prospect as bright and glorious as this is dark and gloomy, opens upon that ruler, who cultivates in his heart the principles of undissembled piety and virtue, and forms his conduct upon them; whose governing aim is to comply with the will of God in all things, and to secure his approbation. He can look forward to that important day, in which God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, with calmness and comfort. He then shall receive the plaudit of his Judge, before assembled worlds of angels and men-" Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things; I will

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" Matt. xxv. 21.

Finally. Our subject suggests the duty of a people to their rulers. Rulers and subjects are correlate terms; they cannot subsist separately. If God sets some in the place of rulers, and invests them with a power to govern, he certainly appoints others to the place of subjects, and makes it their duty to submit to government. People are bound to regard the will and agency of God in clothing persons with civil authority. When they do so, they will obey "not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake;" (Rom. xiii. 5.) and treat them according to the nature and design of their offices, and their fidelity in the discharge of them.

It is incumbent on a people cheerfully to support civil government. This is not to be viewed as the part of charity and generosity, but of justice. The support of those, who employ their time and talents to serve the public, should be made easy and honorable. Those who diligently attend to the duties of their stations, have care, labor and anxiety enough: People should not increase these, by withholding from them an adequate reward for their services. This would tend to dishearten them, and to weaken their efforts for the public good.

A respectful treatment of their rulers is also the duty of a people. It is an apostolical injunction, that we "render honor to whom honor is due." Rom. xiii. 7. It is due to those, who are raised to important seats of government. We should pray for them. We should treat their persons with veneration and esteem. We should speak of them, and to them, in decent and respectful language. To act contrary to this, is to weaken the springs of government, and to encourage those to "speak evil of dignities," who are already too much inclined to do it. "It is written, thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." Acts xxiii. 5.

A people are in duty bound to submit to their political fathers, in every thing lawful. If they refuse this, they frustrate the design of God and men, in clothing them with this character; and government is at an end. Submission is enjoined on a people, by several of the inspired writers. The passages in which it is so, have been often quoted, on occasions similar to the present, and are I trust too well known to need repeating at large. Rom. xiii. 1-7. They have by some been made to prove too much. They are no doubt to be understood with some limitation. "He is the minister of God to thee for good," says St. Paul, of the civil magistrate. This implies, that so far as he pursues the end for which God placed him in office, he is to be obeyed. Nor should small instances, in which we imagine he fails of this, be looked upon sufficient ground for refusing submission. These may arise rather from human frailty, than any settled disposition in him to

abuse his power. But when he uses his authority for purposes just the reverse of those for which it was delegated to him-when he evidently encroaches on the natural and constitutional rights of the subject-when he tramples on those laws which were made, at once to limit his power, and defend the people-in such cases they are not obliged to obey him. They are guilty of impiety against God; and of injustice to themselves, and the community, of which they are members, if they do: For his commands interfere with those of the supreme Ruler, and overthrow the foundations of government, which he hath laid. "We must obey God rather than man." Acts v. 29.

The doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, which had so many advocates in our nation, a century ago, is at this day, generally given up, as indefensible, and voted unreasonable and absurd. The unreasonableness and absurdity of it, hath indeed been proved by some of the greatest reasoners of our age.

"Wheresoever law ends," says the great Mr. Locke, "tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another's harm. And whoever in authority exceeds the power given him by law, and makes use of the force he hath under his command, to compass that upon. the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed as any other man, who invades the right of another."-" Here, it is likely," continues he, "the common question will be made, Who shall be judge, whether the prince or legislature act contrary to their trust? This, perhaps, ill-affected and factious men may spread among the people, when the prince only makes use of his just prerogative. To this, I reply: The people shall be judge; for who shall be judge whether his trustee or deputy acts well, and according to the trust reposed in him, but he who deputes him, and must by having deputed him, have still a power to discard him, when he fails in his trust? If this be reasonable in particular cases of private men, why should it be otherwise in that of the greatest moment, where the welfare of millions is concerned; and also where the evil, if not prevented, is greater, and the redress very difficult, dear, and dangerous?"

There may indeed be danger that ill-disposed men—men disaffected to government in general, will "use this liberty," which the God of nature hath given us, "for an occasion to the flesh,” to gratify the disorderly lusts of it; and so to disturb the peace of the society, of which they are members. But this is not a sufficient reason why we should discontinue our claim to it.

Subjects will, however, find it to their advantage to suffer great inconveniences, rather than to rise up against men in authority. They are not to expect an administration without faults. Small faults should not be remarked on with bitterness, or magnified with

all the power of invention. This would increase the burden of government, already heavy enough on those, who are faithful in discharging the duties of it; and tend to discourage those from taking a part in it, who are best qualified. A generous readiness to make every kind allowance for what may be amiss in others, is perhaps one of the rarest qualities in the world: It is however a very necessary one, in the several connections of society, and particularly in that between rulers and people.

If any thing hath been suggested in this discourse, which may serve to lead rulers, or people, into a better understanding of their duty, and to animate them to diligence and fidelity in discharging it, the design of our assembling in this house of worship is not lost. I will suppose you possessed of every instructive sentiment that hath been suggested, if any such there hath been, and therefore shall not make a recapitulation of what hath been said, in the way of particular address.

Inattention to the duties of their stations is inexcusable in all orders of men. It becomes criminal and dangerous, in proportion to the importance of these duties. The public welfare greatly depends on the fidelity and vigilance of civil rulers.

It is I hope with sincere gratitude to God, that we see this anniversary. The public transactions of it, Honored Fathers, we look upon to be very interesting to this people. We have been seeking to the Fountain of wisdom, for guidance and direction to be afforded to you, in them. To-day you exercise an important privilege of our happy constitution, that of choosing gentlemen to sit at the council board; who are not only to constitute one branch of the legislature, but "to the best of their judgment, at all times, freely to give their advice to the governor, for the good management of the public affairs of this government." This is a privilege on which the happiness of this people not a little depends. It was always dear to our fathers, and is so to us. By it we have the great satisfaction of seeing the council consist of men from among ourselves, whose interest is the same with that of the people; and who are under all conceivable obligations to seek their welfare. This is a privilege secured to us by royal charter; on which security, I trust, under God, we may depend, for the continuance of it down to the latest posterity. A privilege which we have not forfeited; and God forbid we should, in any future time, be guilty of such conduct, as might render it just to deprive us of it.

What we enjoy by charter, is not to be looked upon barely as matter of grace; but, in a measure at least, of right. Our fathers faithfully performed the conditions, on which charter privileges were granted. To do this they passed through a scene of hard

ships, labors and sufferings. These were productive of great advantages to the mother country. Our charter privileges are those of Englishmen; those of the British constitution; as our form of government, in this province, is an image in miniature of that of our nation.

The appointment of the governor, and commander-in-chief, is by the province charter, which we wish never to see vacated, reserved to the crown. In this we acquiesce: We indeed consider it as preferable to annual elections by the people.

Both the other branches of the legislature, we have the liberty of choosing. We hope the good people of this province have acted, with due consideration, in the choice they have made of persons to represent them, in the present assembly; and that all who are to be concerned in the elections of this day, will be influenced by motives, truly religious and patriotic. It is not wealth*—it is not family-it is not either of these alone, nor both of them together, though I readily allow neither is to be disre garded, that will qualify men for important seats in government, unless they are rich and honorable in other and more important respects. This province hath had men, and such I doubt not there are still among us, in whom all these qualities are happily united. But in the first place, and before all other things, you should regard wisdom and integrity, understanding and religion, as qualifications for the business of government. If you aim to choose men thus qualified, you are "workers together with God," who is the fountain of all promotion. If you give your suffrages for those, whom you know to be of a contrary character, you are chargeable with nothing less than a voluntary opposition to the will of Heaven. A serious thought, with which, we wish to have your minds deeply impressed.

It is always important to have wise and faithful rulers. It is peculiarly so, when the state of a people is difficult and perplexed. None can doubt ours being such, at the present day. All must agree in this, however different their sentiments may be, as to the immediate occasions of our troubles. Mutual confidence and affection, between Great Britain and these colonies, I speak it with grief, seems to be in some measure lost. I trust nothing of our loyalty to the best of kings, or of our readiness to yield

When L. Quintius Cincinnatus was created Dictator, riches were not by the generality of the Roman citizens thought necessary to preferment. His estate was a farm consisting only of four acres of land: He was at plough when the deputies came to him from the senate, to acquaint him of his promotion. Wherever wisdom and virtue were found in a person, though destitute of a fortune, he stood fair to be advanced. And yet there were a few among the Romans even in that day, as there is a greater number among us in this, who are well described by Livy, when he says "Operæ pretium est audire, qui omnia præ divitiis humana spernunt; neque honori magno locum, neque virtuti putant esse, nisi effuse affluant opes.”

« AnteriorContinua »