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It may be conceded, that, with not very many exceptions, the commands of kings and princes, in respect of Christian establishments, have by no means been so entirely“ by the word of the Lord," as those of Hezekiah were; many, alas ! have been against it, many beyond, many beside or beneath it: but this is the fault, not of the exercise of all authority, in this respect, but of an undue, an erroneous, and ignorant, or an ungodly exercise of authority.
It is observable, that Hezekiah seems to have made little use of the high priests in inquiring the will of God; but principally consulted Isaiah the prophet: and Josiah sent even the high priest Hilkiah himself to consult the prophetess Huldah, when the book of the law was found, and he was greatly alarmed at what he read in it. ? Before this time, his exercise of authority in religion, and his orders and comnands to the priests and Levites, had not been regulated by any exact rule: but from this event he proceeded more exactly, as Hezekiah had done,“ by the word of the Lord;" and his measures were unexceptionable, and met with decided approbation. But his sons, Jehoiakiin and Zedekiah, imitating the worst part of Manasseh's conduct, used their authority against the law of God, and against his prophets, and so brought destruction on themselves, and on Judah and Jerusalem.
After the Babylonish captivity, the governors of the restored remnant of Judah concurred with the priests and Levites in the concerns of religion ;
| 2 Kings xxij. 12–14. 2 Chron. xxxiv.
yet exercised authority over them in the same manner that Hezekiah and Josiah had done: and, while Zerubbabel and others, till the days of Nehemiah, regulated their interference, and the exercise of their authority, in the concerns of religion, according to the holy law of God, their conduct was approved and prospered. But, after a time, the rulers and priests, and the high priests (then become, in some respects, the political rulers of the nation,) too generally "made void the law of “God, to keep their own traditions,” or in subserviency to their own interests : and then they were neither approved nor prospered. Thus the exereise of authority in religious concerns was not that in their conduct which was either approved or condemned, but the scriptural or antiscriptural use of that authority: and why should it not also be the same under the Christian dispensation?
In the most approved conduct of the rulers of Israel and Judah, when exercising authority in the immediate concerns of religion, one thing is peculiarly observable, namely, that they decidedly enforced the payment to the priests and Levites, of those emoluments which had been allotted to them by the divine law, and the proper
distribution and division among them of these revenues; while they required them to attend on those services, for the performance of which they had been allotted. But, when no exercise of authority by the ruler intervened, the priests and Levites too generally neglected their special duties; and the
2 Chr. xxxi. 4-10, 18-21. xxxv. 2–6. Neh. x. 32–39. xiii. 5-13.
people alienated, or appropriated, what was the due and portion of the priests and Levites out of the estates of the other tribes.
Now, as the apostle expressly argues from the law of Moses, in respect of the equitable right which the ministers of Christianity have to a maintenance for their labours ;what reason can be assigned, why it is not the duty of Christian rulers, to take care that a provision should be allotted to the ministers of religion; and that they who receive it should be required to attend to those services for which it is given ; and that those should be most approved and encouraged, who labour with the greatest diligence in the word and doctrine? It is chiefly to be regretted, that the examples of Hezekiah and Nehemiah have not been more exactly imitated: and the deviations from these may be considered as objections to the unscriptural use of authority, but not to the scriptural exercise of authority in this particular. Indeed, the piety, or the superstition, at least the liberality of our ancestors, appropriated funds for the support of the ministers of religion, and for other religious and beneficent purposes ; which, if they had not been diverted into other channels, would have been abundantly sufficient for the purpose: and even, after all depredations, if properly apportioned and distributed, would go far towards rendering any new tax or impost needless. Yet it is manifest, that the largest sums, which could in any case be required to defray the expenses incurred by supporting the
1.1 Cor. ix. 9-14,
worship of God, and all things connected with the general instruction of the people, would be comparatively small, when the sums expended by irreligious princes in needless luxury and splendour, or in more criminal pursuits, are considered.
It is in this view observable, that they among the kings and princes of Judah, who (in addition to the legal dues,) most liberally contributed towards the expenses of the instituted worship of God out of their own revenues, or gains, or spoils, or estates, (from David and his immense treasures, dedicated to God, for the building of the temple, to Josiah and his princes) are never censured by the sacred writers for so doing, but the contrary: some of them also, at least, were in other respects more indisposed to lavish expenditure, than the other kings and princes. Josiah, for instance, was contented with the ancient mansions of his predecessors; as Hezekiah also had been: his expenditure was of another kind: 1 but Jehoiakim his son, whose profaneness equalled his father's piety and holy zeal, brought on himself this awful and instructive rebuke for his profuse magnificence, “Wo unto him that buildeth his house by. “ unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong ; “ that useth his neighbour's service without wages, s and giveth him not for his work; that saith, I “ will build me a wide house, and large chambers, “ and cutteth him out windows, and it is ceiled “ with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt “ thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar?
* 2 Chr. xxxv. 7-9.
“ Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judg“ment and justice, and then it was well with “ him? He judged the cause of the poor and
needy; then it was well with him. Was not “ this to know me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes
and thine heart are not but for thy cove“ tousness.”] Nehemiah also, who enforced the payment of the dues to the priests and Levites, and at vast expense supported the cause of his people and his religion ; would not make any advantage of his station, or suffer his servants to do it; or even take the emoluments which had been paid to former governors.? Can any man help perceiving that, if Christian kings, rulers, princes, and senates would thus spare in various other ways, that they might imitate these pious and zealous rulers of Judah ; and see to it that a proper distribution was made of the sums thus appropriated, to things immediately connected with true religion ; much indeed might be done without further burdening their subjects.
It is, in my view, no small confirmation of the point which I am desirous of establishing (namely, that the conduct of the pious kings of Israel and Judah was not adopted in obedience to any part of the ritual or political law of Moses, or . by any establishment made in that law, but was intended as an example for kings and princes, professing Christianity, to imitate,) that the spirit of prophecy mentions the grand outlines of their
· Jer. xxii. 14-19.