« PreviousContinue »
has a certain power over individuals with which his office invests him, he is nevertheless morally responsible to the people for the proper exercise of that power. And after all, where unworthy magistrates are punished by deposition, or otherwise, it is in effect the people who punish them : for although they do not literally award the penalty, this is nevertheless done by those whom they have sent to the seat of government as their representatives : so that it is virtually, if not actually, done by themselves.
It is in truth no light matter to undertake that secular ministry which places the guilty at our disposal, and constitutes us guardians of the civil rights of society. This ministry should be
with a solemn determination to serve God by doing our duty to man; as it is certain that we best serve Him by benefitting his creatures in those acts which we are both morally and officially called upon to perform for their advantage. If it be the duty of the citizen to be submissive, it is equally so of the magistrate to be upright, and in proportion as his office is responsible so will his situation be critical at that eventful day when he will be called upon to deliver in an account of his stewardship, if he has in any way violated this responsibility, “for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” If then rulers do become “ a terror to good works,” they clearly act contrary to the
purposes for which they were invested with authority, and this contravention of the divine purpose is manifestly to“ fight against God.”
It will be inferred from the words just quoted, and the inference is so clear as to amount to a positive declaration, that magistrates are not placed over us to be a terror to good but only to evil persons. Their duties are too plain to be niistaken, and if they conscientiously discharge them, though they may possibly be denied the praise of men, they will nevertheless have praise of God. What, permit me to ask, is the safeguard of the Sovereign's throne ? His people's love ! Does not therefore his best worldly policy agree with his spiritual obligations ? For surely it must be wiser in a worldly, as it is better in a religious, point of view, to win that love which is the most steadfast security of his crown,
than to provoke that hatred which must ever endanger it by irritating the people to cast off their allegiance, and thus to violate the laws of their country and their God.
All magistrates, from the King to the lowest functionary in the state, are equally bound to perform with integrity the duties of their station. Kings are but the delegates of a mightier King, and are his subjects as well as the meanest of their own. With Him, who is the only one supreme, there is no respect of persons, but only as they are better than their fellows. I shall con
clude in the words of the eloquent and amiable Bishop Horne.
“While we partake in so eminent a degree as we do of the benefits of civil polity, let us not be unmindful of our great Benefactor. Let these solemn occasions serve to remind us that there is an intimate connexion between religion and government; that the latter flowed originally from the same divine source with the former, and was, at the beginning, the ordinance of the Most High; that the state of nature was a state of subordination, not one of equality and independence, in which mankind never can nor ever did exist; that the civil magistrate is the minister of God to us for good ;' and that to the gracious Author of every other invaluable gift we are indebted for all the comforts and conveniences of society during our passage through this turbulent scene to those mansions where, as violence is no more committed, punishment is no more deserved ;—where Eternal Justice has fixed her throne, and is for ever employed in distributing rewards to her subjects who have been tried and found faithful.”
ON THE INSUFFICIENCY OF MAN,
Preached on the last Sunday of the year.
ECCLESIASTES, CHAP. IX. VERSE 11.
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.
I CANNOT but recal to mind that, on the first day of the now nearly-departed year, I addressed you upon the uncertainty of human events, the fallacy of human expectations, the narrowness of human foresight, the weakness of human design as a provision for time, when we knew not how soon we might be summoned to take our leave of it for ever; and I doubt not many, who are now before me, have found those observations literally verified by the event. A single year, though a period of very rapid progression, is nevertheless always pregnant with signal events to some or other among
The extremes of joy and sorrow often