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The ambassadors of God may still further enforce all the duties and doctrines they teach in his name, by his universal, overruling providence. He acts, and appears to act, as Lord of lords and King of kings, in his wise and holy government of the world. He rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives them to whomsoever he will. He stands in the congregation of the mighty, and judges among the gods. He confirms, or confounds, the counsels of the greatest potentates of the earth; who cannot, in a single instance, either stay his hand, or defeat his designs. A consideration of such a constant and powerful influence of the Deity over all the views and designs and exertions of men, serves to increase the force and obligation of relig. ious instructions. Those, therefore, whose sacred office it is, to proclaim to Zion, “that her God reigneth,” may give a heavy sanction to all they say to the friends and enemies of Zion, by displaying the power and operation of his invisible hand, who governs the concerns of all the kingdoms and nations of the earth.
Finally, the preachers of that gospel, which has brought life and immortality to light, may teach, and warn, and admonish their hearers, in the clear view of the glorious and awful retributions of eternity. God has expressly declared in his word, that he has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and give to every man according to his work. All things are preparing, as fast as possible
, for the day of judgment, when great and small, high and low, rich and poor, rulers and subjects, must all stand before the bar of Christ, who will lay open secrets of all hearts, divide the righteous from the wicked, and close the solemn scene, by admitting the righteous to everlasting life, and dooming the wicked to everlasting death. Knowing these terrors of the
Lord, his ministers are solemnly bound to exhibit them before the minds of men, in all their weight and solemnity, to persuade them to hear and obey the instructions of his word. The final and awful retributions of eternity carry a weight and solemnity, sufficient to penetrate and bow the stoutest heart. Paul tried their strength and prevailed. “As he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled."
These religious motives, which are drawn from the being and presence of the all-seeing and heart searching God, from the infinite authority of all his precepts and prohibitions, from the controlling influence of his universal providence, and from the future and eternal rewards and punishments, which he will finally dispense to the righteous and the wicked, are infinitely superior to any other motives, which can be exhibited before reasonable and accountable creatures. They are calculated to affect and influence all the powers and faculties of their souls. They are equally adapted to enlighten their understandings, to bind their consciences, and to govern all their hopes and fears And they carry the same infinite weight and authority to all men, at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. Hence it clearly appears, that the business of religious teachers perfectly coincides with the business of civil rulers. It is the ultimate design of civil magistrates to restrain the external actions of men, and so far as religious teachers restrain their internal corruptions, just so far they aid the civil powers, and contribute all their influence to promote the good of civil society, This salutary effect of religious instruction, enforced by the motives of eternity, mankind have observed and experienced in all ages; and upon this solid ground, they have formed their united and ist opinion, that religious instructors, are highly necessary to promote their civil as well as religious interests.
This subject naturally suggests a number of important truths, which deserve serious consideration, at the present day.
1. Since men in all ages have generally and justly agreed in the opinion, that religious instructors are useful in civil society, it discovers no less ignorance, than presumption in those, who adopt and endeavor to propagate the opposite sentiment. The generality of mankind may, undoubtedly, form false opinions concerning many subjects in religion, morality, and politics, which it becomes wise and learned men to expose and refute, But for any pretended politicians and philosophers to rise up and contradict the common opinion of all nations in all ages, upon a subject which has always fallen under their observation and experience, betrays a want of judgment or information, as well as a want of respect for superior wisdom. Though there may be ignorance without error, yet there cannot be error without ignorance. Let men be ever so wise and learned in some things, they are always ignorant in those things, concerning which they form false and groundless opinions. Indeed, learning is often the fruitful source of ignorance, as well as of knowledge; for the more ideas men collect, by reading, observation, or study, the more ignorant they are, unless they are able to discern the agreement and disagreement of their ideas, and to draw just conclusions from them. This will account for the gross errors and blunders of many learned infidels, who have written upon religious subjects. It was owing to learned ignorance, that Morgan undertook to prove, from the Old Testament, that the Jewish priesthood were a heavy and useless burden to the na
tion. And it was owing to the same cause, that Helvetius and Voltaire endeavored to refute the common opinion of mankind, respecting the political benefit, which they have always supposed, they have derived from religious instructors. This gross error of learned infidels implies the ignorance of some important things, which it is a reproach to any professed politicians and moral philosophers not to understand.
It certainly betrays the want of knowledge in the science of politics. The chief design of civil government is, to restrain men from disturbing the peace and happiness of civil society. But the history of the world affords abundant evidence of the weakness and insuf. ficiency of all human laws, to answer this important purpuse. It must appear, therefore, to every wise and discerning man, who has traced the uniform effects of civil government, that it has always stood in need of religion, to supply its essential defects. So that the more learned any are in law, or in history, and yet deny the utility of religious teachers, the more they discover a natural or moral incapacity to draw just conclusions from the plainest premises.
Nor is this all; for they betray no less ignorance of human nature, than of the impotency of human laws. All men are more or less sensible of being weak and dependent creatures, which naturally disposes them to lean upon some superior invisible power. As individuals, they find they cannot support either themselves or each other; and hence in cases of extreme doubt, or danger, or distress, they spontaneously look up to some invisible divinity, to afford them light, protection and relief. These feelings, which are so congenial to religion in general, mankind have universally manifested by their conduct. They have always had their divinities, their real or pretended prophets and religious instructors, and their external rites and modes of religious worship. This natural propensity of mankind to religion, all wise and prudent rulers have observed; and instead of opposing and restraining it, have taken peculiar care to foster and cherish it in the minds of their subjects. If therefore, any of our moderu politicians and philosophers really imagine, that religion and its teachers are detrimental to civil society, they have searched the records of religion and of government in vain, and only involved themselves in gross ignorance upon a subject, which all nations have clearly understood. It is to be hoped and expected, that but few will embrace this novel and dangerous error, which is founded in ignorance, and which stands completely refuted, by the universal observation and experience of mankind.
2. If what has been said be true, then none are fit for civil rulers, who would exclude religious instructors from civil society. Men may possess different abilities, and entertain different sentiments in religion and politics, and yet be qualified to fill some public and important stations. But those, who maintain that religious instructors are useless in society, are totally unqualified to have any official concern in government. For should such men be invested with power to make, or to execute the laws of the land, they would strip them of their greatest influence, and strike away the strongest pillar of their own authority. There are some, who despise and neglect all religious instructions themselves, and yet view them of great importance to others, and would exert all their influence to support religious teachers. Such men as these, if qual. ified in other respects, may manage public affairs with great advantage to the public, while they neglect to secure the one thing needful to themselves. Though the