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evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. The example of our Lord and Master is in this as in all other respects to be imitated; who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. Nor are we at liberty, according to the Christian law, even to wish evil in our thoughts to our governors, under a mistaken impression as to the utility of their measures. “ Curse not the king, no not in thy thoughts; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter*.'
They are enjoined to pray constantly and heartily for their rulers. This duty, I fear, we are apt to discharge as a form,-as a customary petition, which it would be indecent to omit. In what a different light does its importance appear by the language in which it is enforced. “I exhort,” says the Apostle Paul, “ that first of all, supplications, prayers, and intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” The disposition of mind required in presenting such supplications before the throne of
is not less favourable to our own happiness, than it is to the peace and harmony of society.
We owe our rulers gratitude for the blessings which, under Providence, we enjoy by their government. I am satisfied that the spirit of Christianity requires us to cherish this kind and grateful feeling towards the
magistracy of our land. How numerous are our mercies and privileges! When we compare our state, as to religious knowledge and civil and religious freedom, with that of the other nations of Europe, have we not abundant cause of thankfulness to Him who has made so great a difference in our favour! A large portion of the world is enveloped in heathen and in Mohammedan darkness; but we live under a government which gives every facility to the progress of christian knowledge, and to the circulation of the Scriptures. In this land, and under the protection of this government, many a scheme of philanthropy, formed for the purpose of sending temporal and spiritual blessings to other nations, has had its origin. To the seditious profligate and the unbeliever there may be nothing in this to endear to them the British isles, and the free and unrivalled government which Divine Providence has placed over them; but there is in this, notwithstanding, much to awaken the patriotic and grateful feelings of all who think aright towards God and towards men.
We should, I apprehend, be more disposed to cherish grateful feelings towards our rulers did we consider the advantages resulting from any government, even the worst, rather than anarchy. Under every government property is in a greater or less degree protected, and industry encouraged; whereas, from anarchy universal ruin would soon follow. “ It is melancholy, but it is nevertheless true, that men are never so apt to throw off all regard to decency as in the time of some great public calamity, when cities are overturned by earthquake or depopulated by pestilence; for then the law loses its power. In short, we may presume that the disorders incident to the natural state would be so great, that if it were to be at all, it could not be of any long continuance *.”
Were there no restraints on the evil passions of mankind, persons of true piety would suffer more than the unprincipled government of Nero and Diocletian inflicted. They, in particular, have great cause of thankfulness to God for a government which protects their lives and property, which recognises as sacred the rights of conscience, and which forms their safeguard and defence while moving onwards to a better, even an heavenly, country.
Subjects are further bound to put the most candid and charitable construction on the conduct and measures of their rulers. They are men, and are therefore liable, even with the best intentions, to err; and can we expect human beings to be exempted from this liability ? Every government, however excellent, is of human origin; and, therefore, partakes of the im
; perfections which attach to whatever is of man's devising and administration. It is a duty which we owe to all men not to judge them rashly, or with asperity; and we owe it more particularly to our rulers as our superiors. That the infidel, whose views of the real condition of man and of his destiny are at variance with truth, should ignorantly impute to his rulers evils which no earthly government can prevent,—that he should array human nature with an imaginary perfection, and attempt to persuade himself and others,
* Beattic's Elements of Moral Science, vol. ii p. 151,
that but for existing institutions the inhabitants of the world would soon arrive at a high degree of happiness ;-and that he should people the regions of his fancy with beings not subject to the infirmities and miseries of men;—these are errors which very naturally proceed from the darkness and presumption of unbelief in regard to divine revelation. But surely they who receive the representations of the oracles of God respecting all that man now is, and all that man is yet to be,-his apostasy from God, and the many evils to which this apostasy and consequent corruption give rise,-cannot expect to be exempted from sufferings in this world, or imagine that the best human government can save sinful beings from many calamities, or convert this earth, on which the malediction of the Creator rests, into a paradise.
We are, indeed, prone to impute the evils we endure to any cause rather than to our own desert; and this propensity very naturally leads ignorant and selfconfident
persons to suppose that a change of the form of government, or of the agents by whom it is administered, will remove their sufferings—like those who are affected with fever, who imagine that a mere change of position will bring them relief, till experience teaches them that the disease is within. An army of cowards would most confidently ascribe the disasters to which its own cowardice gives rise to its generals, and would affirm that under other leaders they should be victorious.
Let those who believe the divine authority of the Book which tells us that in the world we shall have tribulation, that here we have no continuing city or place of abode,-beware of blaming man for withholding from us what the righteous government of God has denied us; and in place of criminating, or attempting to criminate, rulers, let us cherish thankfulness for the mercies we possess, and endeavour to improve them.
III. Christianity strengthens civil government by inculcating the principles of peace. I do not say, that it renders war in every case criminal ; or that it, even remotely, discourages us from defending our lives, property, and privileges. But it unquestionably forms those dispositions, and enforces those principles, which naturally lead to the utter extinction of the arts of violence and destruction. It breathes so much peace and good will to men-it expresses such a deep and overcoming earnestness in regard to the salvation of human beings, that it is impossible sincerely to embrace it without entertaining towards our fellow-creatures a kindliness of feeling, which, if it be not incompatible with war, is incompatible with the indulgence of the passions that give rise to it. Independently of its aptitude to subdue the human heart, and to eradicate its malice and envy, there is an opposition between its often-repeated injunctions, and the pride, ambition, and covetousness, in which the hostilities of nations and rebellions against lawful authority have their origin. Though christianity had contained no other precept to direct its disciples in their conduct towards those who injure them, but that which its Divine Author himself delivered, it were sufficient to make all who revere his sayings willing to err on the score of unresenting passiveness, than of