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The Duties of the Divine Law.

Preached in 1818.

Proverbs 19. 16.

He, that keepeth the commandment, keepeth his own soul.


LL of you, my brethren, who assemble

here once in the week to worship God, and to hear his holy word, know that we are placed in the world to do his will; that his commandments are the law, by which we are to regulate our understandings, our affections, and our actions; and that in keeping of them, there is great reward, as in the transgression of them, there is woeful punishment; that He careth for us, and keepeth us as the apple of an eye; that in his favour there is joy and life,

The Duties of the Divine Law.

but in his displeasure tribulation and death. You know this, but do your lives exhibit the fruits of this knowledge? You profess and boast to know these things; but do not some of you live, as if we were ignorant of them? Do you think that the mere knowledge of them is sufficient to save? or do

you deceive yourselves, and because you know them, imagine that you practise them? Or, in the satisfaction of knowing them, do you forget that they are to be practised? or mistake, or overlook the duties which they enjoin?

The response of conscience to these questions, after a just scrutiny into your lives, would, I fear, prove you to be under some fearful delusion, misconception, or forgetful ness; so that I may well employ the present opportunity, in particularizing some of the more important duties, to which we are subjected by the knowledge of the law of the Lord.

In all civilized society, there is one indis pensable rule of action, binding upon every man under the protection of that society, in


The Duties of the Divine Law.

all cases, except in matters of conscience towards God; this rule is the law of the land, which in all Christian countries necessarily approximates to the Divine law. In ours, if it be not exactly the law of God organized, and adapted to the circumstances and wants of civilized man; it is, at least, taken as a whole, as near to the Divine law, as any practical system of civil polity that ever existed, or, perhaps, that ever will exist. As far then as human jurisprudence can be a rule for, or restraint upon human actions, we have a sure rule to walk by, in the observance of which we cannot offend, although we may still be faithless and unworthy servants of Christ.

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All forms of civil government, are intended to encourage virtue, and suppress vice ; to punish the disorderly, the profane, and the mischievous of every denomination, for the protection and peace of the harmless and useful, the well disposed, the religious. Herein human law is subservient to the divine, and beareth not the sword in vain, to carry into effect the purposes of the Almighty. It is ordained of God, and obedience to it is incul


The Duties of the Divine Law.

cated both as a duty and a blessing. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, for the powers that be are ordained of God. They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terrour to good works, but to the evil. Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." This was the injunction of St. Paul to the Roman converts under the government of a prince as cruel, depraved, and tyrannical, as any that defaces the page of history-a government not fit to be named with that, under which we have the happiness to live, if we would but know our happiness.

A wise, a good, and truly upright man, therefore, at all times, that we can contemplate, and on all occasions even the most trivial, will shew deference and regard to the civil institutions under which he lives, knowing that in so doing he is fulfilling the dispensations of Heaven, for the order, and harmony of the world; and consequently for the welfare of every individual.

One great duty, then, in the conduct, and a distinguishing trait in the character, of a

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The Duties of the Divine Law.

Christian, is submission to the constituted authorities, allegiance to the governors, and obedience to the laws of his country. A bad subject cannot be a good Christian. It seems a common fault of this age, when a man is dissatisfied with his condition, to impute the cause of his discontent to the misconduct of his governors; when the law happens not to suit with his own particular circumstances, to revile it, to endeavour to bring it into contempt, and to seek safe means of evading it. The strength and prosperity of a nation do certainly in a great measure depend on the wisdom of its laws and the vigilance, judgement, and integrity of its rulers. But the happiness of an individual, and particularly of the Christian, arises chiefly from within; from the secret springs in his own bosom; from the use he makes of the means of grace, and salvation offered in the Gospel. A poet, who in the last century flourished in this country, whose moral strains, in the sweetest harmony of verse, amend while they delight the heart, and whose sentiment it may not be improper to cite here, hath truly said,


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