« ZurückWeiter »
signed ; and to effect this is their duty in whose hands the power is lodged : nor can changes so effected ever be to the blemish or dishonor of the church. But when men dislike without reason, and obstinately condemn whatever has been settled by authority; when they disclaim all the power and the acts of the church ; either their ignorance must be invincible, or their guilt unpardonable.
The reason of all changes ought to be very plain and apparent; since to change is the effect and sign of weakness; and to change often always breeds contempt. To press for alterations when most things in an establishment are owned to be good, and all tolerable, is not the effect of much judgment. If want of perfection be a reason to change, this reason will last for ever, since all the laws of the church are not of divine institution.
In matters of religious government, strange to say ! every man thinks himself a competent judge of what is fit to be obeyed, though he pretends not to the same discretionary power in state affairs; as if the case were not the same in both instances; and as if obedience in all things lawful and honest were not of like necessity in both.
The common people are led to esteem men who act thus, because they appear to suffer for their opinions, forfeiting advantages and worldly interests by not complying with the establishment, while rewards are open to the obedience of others; and as long as men are weak enough to be misled, and the errors of some are profitable to others, there will be no end of dissensions; and should the restlessness of men once break in on the constitution, the event only could show where it would end.
To what extremes the humor of men once set on change will run, the mournful occasion of this day's solemnity is a sufficient proof. The actors in those troubles thought of nothing less, when they began, than the event that succeeded. The good
of the public and of the king was the pretence; and they never left off seeking it till they had ruined the public, and brought the royal head to the scaffold. With the same success the purity of the church was promoted; which ended in its utter subversion, and the blood of a great prelate.Character of Archbishop Laud.-His case might deserve more to be lamented, did not that which followed bury all private injuries and resentments.—Character and death of King Charles I.-Reflexions thereon. It is a hard case if princes have no right to the allowances that are made to all besides : harder, because by their high station they are more exposed to the view of the world, and are obliged to live by the opinion of those who are not always wise enough to judge, or to let it alone. The privilege too, which extends to the lowest cottager, of choosing his own friends, is not without murmuring allowed to kings; nor may they stoop to the innocent and harmless enjoyments of life. Every step men take, by which they rise in the world, is an abridgment of their innocent liberty, and binds them to a stricter self-denial; for there is a natural envy in men, which loves to see the honor and dignity of high station qualified with trouble and anxiety.
Those however who are distinguished by the advantages of birth and education, should be above the common prejudices and sordid passions of the vulgar; thinking themselves obliged, both in honor and duty, to pay a steady obedience to the established government: this point enlarged on.
It is through the goodness of God to us, that after so many convulsions we still enjoy our ancient government; that there is still life and vigor in the religion and liberty of England; a goodness that on our part demands the utmost return of gratitude ; which can in no way be so acceptably shown, as in the worthy use of the blessings we enjoy. Concluding observations.
Preached before Queen Anne at St. James's, Jan, 30, 1704,
being the anniversary of the Martyrdom of King Charles the First.
PROVERBS, CHAP. XXIV.–VERSE 21.
My son, fear thou the Lord and the king; and meddle not with
them that are given to change.
The fear of God and of the king are joined together in Scripture, to show the dependence one has on the other. The only lasting foundation of civil obedience is the fear of God; and the truest interest of princes is to maintain the honor of religion, by which they secure their own. The advantage of religion to all public societies and civil governments is so plain and visible, that some have suspected it to be the only end of religion ; which they allow to be an excellent contrivance of state, a proper remedy for the turbulent humors and passions of men; and though we acknowlege nobler and better ends of religion, which respect another world; yet we must, with thankfulness to its divine Author, own it to be excellently adapted to the temporal felicity of private men and public societies ; Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people.'
If we look into the history of former times, we shall find the first symptoms of ruin and destruction have appeared in the dissolute lives of the people, and a general contempt of sacred things. Irreligion naturally tends to disorder and confusion ; for all civil and moral duties are founded in the principles of religion ; which once overthrown, nothing remains but pure force and power to restrain the unruly appetites of men : a way of governing neither safe to the prince nor easy to the people, and therefore can never last long. Duties which flow from fixed and settled principles, must always be the same; the obligation arising from them unalterable; from the practice of which will follow order and regularity. But interest and passion are in continual motion, and liable to infinite changes ; and men who steer by them, can hold no steady course of action, but must be given to change,' as often as they are out of humor, or think the present state of things not proper to serve their turn. Therefore nothing but a religious sense of our duty to God and to our governors, his ministers on earth, can keep us constant and upright in our obedience. • Fear God and the king, and meddle not with them that are given to change.
I shall not consider the duty of fearing God any farther than as the obedience due to our superiors on earth is included in it; and shall therefore confine myself to the following particulars; to consider,
First, what obedience to our governors is enjoined by the law of God.
Secondly, how inconsistent with this obedience the practice of those men is, who are given to change.'
First, what obedience to our governors is enjoined by the law of God.
Obedience is seen chiefly in three things :
2dly, in honor and reverence to their persons and government.
3dly, in defending them, when any danger threatens them or the public.
The first and principal instance of obedience is submission to the laws and commands of our princes. To determine the original of civil power, or how the prince's right to the obedience of the subject first began, is neither easy nor at this time necessary. But whatever the original of government has been, or on what account soever lawful authority has been gained ; on the same, obedience becomes due. 7 At the time our Saviour appeared in the world, various were the forms of government in it, and different the degrees of power that were exercised by rulers over different countries; none of which were either lessened or increased by the divine law, but all pronounced to be the ordinance of God; and obedience to all exacted under the penalty of disobeying God, the original of all power and authority. For he that resisteth, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.'
But since the nature of obedience is no where determined by the law of God, but only the practice of it commanded; some other rule there must be to judge of the extent of our duty. As in moral virtues, the light of nature and right reason inform us what is temperance, sobriety, and the like ; and therefore these virtues are commanded in Scripture, and in most cases men left to their natural notions of good and evil, to distinguish between the virtue and the vice; so likewise must the acts of obedience, which the law of God commands, be explained and defined by some other rule. When the Jews put that captious question to our Saviour, “Whether it were lawful to pay tribute to Cæsar or no;' he gave no new directions, but judged them out of their own mouths by the known rules of
government; for they having owned the coin of the country to bear Cæsar's image and superscription, a manifest token of their subjection and his sovereignty; he determined, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's.' Agreeable to which is the Apostle's rule, Tribute to whom tribute is due.' Our Saviour took it not on him to determine the civil right of Cæsar; but the right appearing, obedience and compliance he commanded. The rights of princes are not determined in Scripture; and therefore in questions of right the Scripture is no rule.
The measure then of power and authority must be the rule of obedience; whatever the prince can lawfully command, the subject is bound to obey. The things which are God's must be rendered unto God;' and therefore no divine law, declared either by the clear light of nature or express revelation, can be superseded by the command of any earthly power. Which, whenever it is the case, we must obey God rather than man; and be content with the lot of them who suffer for well-doing.