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virtues, in their conduct toward rulers, are delineated with more or less particularity, in sacred history. Additional to the characteristics of those already mentioned, we can only name a few. Samuel was loyal and respectful, and even affectionate toward Saul ; while by the commanding holiness of his character, and his faithful rebukes of his sins, he made Saul to tremble before him. Nathan, though he loved David, and honored his crown and sceptre ; yet, if occasion required, he could draw before David's eyes the hateful picture of himself with a most bold and faithful hand, and then say to him, that he might not fail to discover the likeness, “ thou art the man.” Elijah, though he thought himself alone in all the realm of Ahab, as one who feared God; and lifted his lamentations to God from the midst of the ruins of the holy altar, and with the blood of prophets flowing around him; yet, made Ahab turn pale under his eye, and at the thunder of his denunciations. Elisha could say, whatever duty called him to say, to king Jehoram the son of Ahab, or to the unbelieving lord of Samaria, or to Benhadad king of Assyria; and treat with both exemplary kindness, and yet with the lofty dignity of a prophet, the Assyrian general, who came to him a leper. Nehemiah and Ezra, though captives at a foreign court, knew the way into the favor of the government under which they lived, by the virtues of men of God and of prayer; and gave honor to their religion, before those who carried them captive, by their conscientious respect and deference to constituted authority ; their industry and enterprize ; their faithful regard to economy and justice in expenditures committed to them for the building of Jerusalem ; their steadfast loyalty; their fearlessness in the path of duty; their devotional spirit; their respectful earnestness in petitioning for reasonable favors from the government on which they were dependent; their faithful endeavors for the reformation of abuses; and their maintenance of the laws of God, in the reproof of their violation, no matter by whoin. Mordecai and Esther could with all the respect which became them, ask the protection of Ahasuerus ; and by their good conduct, make his denial of their reasonable requests out of the question ; and yet, in the commanding dignity of virtue, could make the haughty prime minister, Haman, tremble, while they laid open his perfidy to “the wrath of the king." The prophets and apostles might be brought in review before us likewise, in their intercourse with the higher powers,
and their conduct under them; as shedding the light of a godly example; and showing that the religion which has descended from heaven, under both the Old and New Testament dispensations, is a religion which makes the best subjects; and does most by its influence for the stability of government, and the prosperity of nations.
We have reserved to this stage of our examination, the example of one, “who knew no sin.” There is no precept for holy life in the Bible, but has its illustration in the life of our divine Lord and Redeemer. And when we have admired all the examples of the holiest men ; we turn to the example of Christ, and find that perfection is in him alone. “ Render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and unto God the things which are God's," was a great and comprehensive precept, which he gave to a collection of his enemies, who thought to tempt him to disloyalty to the existing government. He thus taught that there is an entire harmony between obedience to God, and to “ the powers that be" and which are “ordained of God;” and that a Christian's obligations are discharged when both these are done, and then only. It would be interesting to contemplate our divine Redeemer as “manifested in the flesh,” under the various circumstances in which he was placed while on earth ; and which would show that the Sovereign of all worlds had come down from heaven, among other things, to give an example for his people, as living under the government of this world, of " whatsover things are pure, lovely, and of good report.”
We would simply call attention to the fact, that when he said, “ thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels,” for his rescue out of the hands of power most impiously prostituted, he yet " committed himself unto him that judgeth righteously,” and “suffered Irimself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter,” and “ as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth.”
As affording farther light on this subject, and confirming some of the positions expressed or implied in the foregoing illustrations, we give a few additional passages from Scripture.
“If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding, pacifieth great offences.” “ Thou shalt not revile the gods, (i. e. great men,) nor curse the ruler of thy people.” “Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought.” The obvious intent of the term “king,” in these
and many other Scriptures, is, one who rules ; without reference to the precise form of government which he administers. Here let it be observed that the Christian is the last man in civil society from whose lips should be heard evil speaking respecting any man ; especially men in places of authority ; and equally far from a censorious and self-wise spirit, in judging and speaking of acts of government which have been well intended, and performed with the best judgment which could be made under existing circumstances. He should be easy to be pleased. He should remember that for well intended and perhaps many wise and righteous acts, he is under obligations as a citizen. And for such as are unhappily otherwise, feelings and language becoming him are far other than those of opprobrium. Two things should be remembered by him. First, that those who administer in public affairs, are often called to act under peculiarly critical and difficult circumstances; where there is a powerful conflict of opposing interests; where the excitement of party spirit is great on both sides, and in danger of influencing the feelings of rulers, almost unconsciously to themselves; and of course where pleasing every one is out of the question; and that to be done which is according to the best judgment they can form. Second, the Christian, as well as every other private man, should remember that he is not " in the cabinet ;” nor under circumstances for taking into view the whole length and breadth of a great national question. Not every good man, at home, as a private citizen, is capable of communicating to legislature or congress, governor or president, messages of counsel on measures or decisions proper to be adopted; or to transniit to the seat of government the veto of his opinion, on a matter where he happens to differ from the executive or the representative assembly. He inust place reliance on the judgment of men chosen as the legislators of his country; as devoting themselves to the examination of public subjects on the large scale ; and in the variety of lights in which they are set, by the efforts of great, though in some respects differing minds. The time may come, when he will be satisfied that they have done right. If they have not, opprobrious speaking of them and their measures will not make the matter any better. He must cherish the spirit of forbearance and forgiveness, as much respecting wrong done to the community as to himself.
“My son, fear thou the Lord and the king; and meddle not with them that are given to change.” A restless, insubordinate spirit sometimes has place and influence in the community, in regard to its government; in which men appear ready to revolt, whenever dissatisfied with its measures. The Christian must have no fellow feeling with such men. Into the assembly of political desperadoes let him never enter. His religion, his very morality will become suspected, in such association. Connected with this may be well considered the counsels of Paul; “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God : and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power ? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same : for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain : for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also : for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due ; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." “ Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” The simplicity and impressiveness of these instructions are such, that they need no comment. They should be inscribed in living characters, upon the whole deportment of the Christian, as a subject of government. That professing Christian gives important evidence that his profession has basis in his real character, who, before God and man, is faithful in these duties.
But the duty which must lie at the foundation of all that is right in a Christian citizen, is that which Paul set forth when he said, “ I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority ; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” It is to the honor of one Christian denomination, in particular, that in the prescribed devotions of their religious services, are contained, and thus made sure of use, at appointed times, prayers for those whom God has placed in the government of the country. We would not bring a groundless charge against Christians of other denominations; and yet is there not reason to apprehend that the habits of many are criminally defective in regard to this duty ? May it not be, that, regarding civil government too much as an invention of man, and with a jealous and censorious spirit; or feeling indifferent in regard to the men who administer it; and seceding entirely from all concern in the election of its officers; they seldom make it the subject of their prayers; perhaps never offer fervent petitions for the blessings of God upon those in authority? A bad subject of government is such a Christian-if indeed he be a Christian. If such be the state of mind in which many professors live, it need never be regarded mysterious, if God should make government to be the rod with which to chastise their unfaithfulness.
The faith and fervency with which the Christian asks blessings on his own soul, or the interests of the church, should be in exercise equally powerful, while he speaks to “ the Majesty of heaven” of those he has appointed to rule in this lower world. Of the ruler it is written, we have seen, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good ;” a great public channel opened from heaven, for the descent of temporal blessings upon men. Take heed lest it be disregarded; and the Sovereign of the universe, thus offended, cause to flow in it the floods of his righteous indignation. Let the morning and evening sacrifices, of the closet and of the family, and the higher services of the Sabbath and the sanctuary, bring to the throne of grace unceasingly, fervently, and with strong faith, those upon whom so much is depending; for the prosperity of the community, and for the prevalence of that “righteousness which exalteth a nation." Then may it be expected, and then only, that “God, even our own God, will bless us."
II. We come now to consider the second question proposed, touching the duties of the Christian as a member of the body politic, as being, in our own country, the source of the government.
While the Christian, as a lover of his country, is likely to think, feel, and act, on many subjects, as other men do, and perhaps with propriety; there are some in which sympathy