« AnteriorContinua »
to him, and to those whom they govern. He holds them responsible to himself for all their public as well as private conduct, and he intends that they shall finally stand upon a level with the meanest of their subjects, before his supreme tribunal. He knows, that all their powers to do good, are equally powers to do evil, and of consequence, that they stand in peculiar need of divine precepts and prohibitions, to keep them in the path of duty, and to restrain them from abusing the authority with which they are invested. Accordingly, he expressly required the kings of Israel not only “to read the law of Moses all the days of their life, but also to write out a copy of it with their own hand, that they might learn to fear the Lord their God, and keep all the words of his law.” Besides this, he frequently employed extraordinary as well as ordinary teachers, to pour religious instruction into the minds of the rulers of his people. Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets, spent much of their time in warning and admonishing kings and princes in particular. And we find the stated instructions of Jehoiada the priest, had a most happy influence upon the life of Jehoash the king of Judah. “And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, all the days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." By this it appears, that religious instructors may do great and extensive service to a whole nation or kingdom, by faithfully inculcating the duties of those, who are concerned in the administration of government.
2. It is the proper business of religious instructors, to explain and enforce the duties, which subjects owe to their rulers. The people are under indispensable obligation, to respect and obey those in authority over them. And the apostle enjoins it upon ministers, “to put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to every good work.” This duty, which he urged upon others, he performed himself, as appears from his solemn ex. hortation to subjects, in the thirteenth of Romans. "Let every soul be subject to the high powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Render there. fore to all their dues; tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor.” All the ministers of religion ought to follow this example, and be equally plain and particular, in urging upon subjects all the peculiar duties which they owe to those in authority, from the highest to the lowest. And can such religious instructions fail of strengthening the hands of civil rulers, and the cords of civil society?
3. The ministers of Christ ought to inculcate upon all their people every private as well as public duty. They are to call upon all men in every stage and condition of life, to repent and believe the gospel, and lo deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world. They are not only to preach the great doctrines of the gospel, but also to inculcate all the Christian graces and social virtues, which are the strongest cements of civil society. Mankind are linked together by a great variety of relations and connexions, from which results as great a variety of correspondent and mutual duties. These, especially, come within the province of preachers to teach and inculcate. They are to explain and urge the mutual duties of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of brothers and sisters, of masters and servants, of the aged and the young, of the rich and the poor, of neighbors, friends, and enemics. The peace and happiness of every community, greatly depends upon the strict and faithful discharge of those relative duties, which lie beyond the reach of all human authority. And, indeed, it is a matter of doubt, whether it would be possible for any portion of mankind to govern themselves, by the mere force of civil laws, without the aid of religious instructions, to regulate their views and conduct in their private and personal concerns. Religious instructors may, there. fore, by teaching the doctrines of pure religion, and inculcating the relative and social duties of life, perform an essential service to society, which no other teachers can perform, and which no human laws can render useless or unnecessary. But it must be further observed.
4. That it belongs to the ministers of the gospel, not only to teach all the duties of religion, morality, and humanity, but to enforce all their religious instructions, by the most solemn and weighty motives. Though politicians and moralists may read fine lectures upon, the public and private virtues; yet their best speculations upon these subjects, are totally destitute of the force and obligation of religious discourses. It is the peculiar province of the ambassadors of God, to address the hearts and consciences of men, and enforce their instructions, by motives infinitely more powerful, than any which can be drawn from human laws, or from the doctrines of true or false philosophy.
For, in the first place, they may enforce every doctrine and duty they teach, by all the weight and solemnity of the divine character. It belongs to their office to demonstrate the existence, and display the glory and majesty of the great Creator. And there is something awfully sublime and solemn in the character of a self-existent and independent Being, whose power, wisdom, goodness, and justice, are beyond all comprehension. The fear of God is one of the most powerful restraints upon the feelings and actions of moral agents. They cannot realize his all-seeing and heart-searching eye, without a fear of doing any thing, either in public or secret, which they know will incur his displeasure. A sense of the divine presence restrained Joseph, when and where no other motive could have had the least influence on his conduct. A fear of the divine disapprobation weighed heavier in the mind of Balaam, than a house full of silver and gold. The awful appearance of Jehovan on Mount Sinai, solemnized the minds, and awakened the consciences of near three millions of people, and constrained them to resolve and promise, that they would always be obedient to all bis commands. Though the natural perfections of God are really terrible, yet his moral perfections make the deepest impressions on the human heart. While the preachers of the gospel, therefore, impress the minds of their hearers with a realizing sense of the existence of the Deity, and of his infinite holiness and justice, it must give a peculiar force and energy to all their religious instructions.
In the next place, they may give weight and solemnity to their religious discourses, by motives drawn from the authority of the supreme Law-giver. All the divine precepts and prohibitions which they inculcate, are clothed with divine authority. God always speaks to men, in his word, as their absolute Lord and Sovereign. The duties, which he enjoins upon rulers and subjects and all classes of men, have the sanction of all his authority, which is underived, independent, and absolute. It necessarily arises from his being the author and owner of the universe, and from his possessing infinite power and absolute right, to govern all his creatures and works. It is, therefore, infinitely superior to all human authority. Men derive all their authority from him; and, of course, the highest motive to obey their authority, arises from his command to obey it. It becomes the preachers of the gospel, therefore, not only to show the reasonableness of the divine precepts and prohibitions, but also their infinite authority, to bind the consciences of all to obey. Indeed, God requires them to employ his infinite authority, to give a sanction to the messages they deliver in his name. He said to Jeremiah, whom he sent to instruct both rulers and subjects, "Gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces; lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day, a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee." The authority of God gives a weighty and solemn sanction to all the messages, which his faithful minis. ters deliver in his name. When they come with a “Thus saith the Lord," and admonish rulers and subjects of their danger and duty, the most stupid and hardened cannot despise and reject their instructions, without feeling themselves exposed to the severest marks of the divine displeasure. Occa.