Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

credit, the prosperity, and the manifold uses of your institution.

If such a righteous and Christian spirit had prevailed among our forefathers, the complicated, terrible, and dreadful calamities, our deliverance from which is commemorated on this day, would not have distressed and disgraced the country in which you were born. If such a spirit had been diffused among the governments of Europe, the continent would not have been harassed by the calamities and perils of long-continued, and widewasting wars. It is our duty to contemplate these awful scenes with seriousness, and to draw from them such lessons of forbearance and moderation as may contribute to our peace, both in private and public life. Let us reverence the religion, which is happily established among us. Let us love the person, and esteem the talents and virtues of those, whom the laws of the land protect in different forms of worship, and different modifications of Christian faith. Let us patiently bear even the proud and pharisaical reproaches of those who not only give themselves credit for superior righteousness, but represent us as miserable outcasts from the saving truths of the Gospel. We are conscious of not deserving such contemptuous and harsh treatment; and we must take care not to imbibe that uncharitable temper which induces us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, and to impute, without any just reason for doing so, a hollow faith, a scanty portion of grace, a marked and invincible inferiority in all

spiritual excellencies to our fellow-subjects, and fellow Christians.

The good disposition so earnestly recommended by St. Paul, will spread its auspicious effects through every class of society—it will restrain the great from tyranny, and the poor from turbulence -it will secure you the uninterrupted and plenary enjoyment of the blessings that flow from a constitution favourable at once to good order, and genuine freedom-it will produce harmony and sweet affection between parents and children, masters and servants-it will lesson all difficulties in the business of your society, and add largely to the usefulnesss and the agreeableness of those provisions, which are made for the relief of the aged, the sick, and the needy—it will give you refreshing slumbers, when you lie down on your beds, and when you rise to your daily toil, it will enable you to eat your daily bread with a contented and serene mind-it will procure you the praise of all intelligent and virtuous observers, and the approbation of your own hearts—and whensoever it pleases God to call you away from this transitory world, it will expiate many of your failings at the judgment seat of Christ, and obtain for you admission into the mansions of the blessed, where all tears shall be wiped away from all faces, and where peace and love will reign for evermore.

[blocks in formation]

690

SERMON XXVII A.

ASSIZE SERMON.

ROMANS xii. 3. Rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil. WHETHER we appeal to the investigations of philosophy, or the dictates of common sense, it would be difficult to find a definition of legal power more sound, more comprehensive, more satisfactory to our understandings, or more useful in our conduct than that which is furnished to us in the words of the text. It connects the dignity of magistrates with their duties ; it recommends their persons to our reverence-their office to our esteem-and their injunctions to our obedience.

In the language, not of rhetorical declamation or delusive mysticism, but of clearness and precision, it shows the interest which every member of a civilized community must have in supporting the rights and giving effect to the commands of those rulers, by whom he is protected from the stratagems of fraud and the outrages of violence.

In the verses immediately preceding the text the Apostle traces up authority to its origin in the will of God, as announced to us in his works—I mean, in such a constitution of external causes and effects as make government necessary, and in such affections and faculties of the human mind as make it obligatory, when that necessity is perceived and experienced. But if all powers, by whatever title they may be distinguished, and under whatever aspect they may be exhibited, proceed from God, no rational and moral creature of God can oppose human power without opposing the divine authority from which it proceeds.

This reasoning, be it observed, does not tend to the justification of tyranny, which, being destructive to the happiness of man, must therefore be adverse to the will of God. It does not depend upon those exterior modifications of authority, which, in different

ages and different countries, may, with the consent of all, have been adopted for the benefit of all. Every Government exercises authority through the medium of human regulations, supported by human sanctions-every Government, framing those institutions wisely, intending them honestly, and executing them firmly, fulfils the purposes of Heaven, and therefore is entitled to plead the authority of Heaven in the maintenance of its own strength, and the justification of its own measures. It is a power from the Deity—it is ordained by the Deity—and therefore resistance to the one is impiety towards the other.

The Apostle, having established this plain and instructive position, proceeds to throw further light upon it by stating the beneficial ends for which power is appointed. It is a terror not to good works but to evil-it implies in the possessor, not caprice but wisdom—not arbitrary will but substantial justice-not a disposition to deform the fair works of God by wanton irregularity or brutal cruelty, but a principle which aims at preserving and perpetuating that order, which is essential to the improvement of the moral world, and which, amidst the regulations and restraints of society, exalts the human character to the highest pitch of perfection.

Here then we see the resemblance between the providence of God and the magistracy of man. Each of them is guided by justice-each of them aims at usefulness—each of them encourages virtue -each of them discourages vice-each deserves our gratitude, and each challenges our obedience.

In conformity to the great and solemn purpose for which we are now assembled, I shall make such further remarks upon the language of St. Paul as may inspire us with the fear of God and the love of each other, vindicate and even endear to us the execution of temporal justice, and further us in the performance of all good works. Now St. Paul supposes rulers actually to be, what in truth they ought to be, the protectors of the good, and the discouragers of the evil. He argues our obligation to obey them explicitly and forcibly, on the ground of our own personal happiness, as resulting from that obedience. Upon particular forms of government he founds no subtle distinctions, but he enforces those precepts which are salutary under every form, where rulers are what he assumes them to be. Our sense of self-preservation indeed concurs with our sense of duty in inspiring us with respect for every ma

« PoprzedniaDalej »