« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
force of the most inflaming eloquence, and render the doctrines of the greatest purity without efficacy. O that all who are engaged in this holy, (and without their personal holiness) dreadful office, would duly consider the account they must give of their managing of it, to the great Shepherd at his appearace. 1 Tim. 5. 17. Heb. 13. 7, 17.
The duty of the people is to obey, to imitate, to honour their faithful pastors : otherwise, every sermon they hear will be an accusation and argument against them in the day of judgment.
3. The civil relation between the magistrates and people binds them to the respective duties of their different states. Magistrates supreme and subordinate, in the scale of government, are the ministers of God for the good of the people. They derive their authority from him, and are styled gods, by an analogy and deputation, which necessarily infers they must rule for his glory. The end of the magistracy should be the end of the magistrates in the exercise of government, that their subjects may “ lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and honesty." 1 Tim. 2. 2. The prince, as the natural head, has the supremacy in place and dignity over all the parts of the body, and is vigilant for their preservation, so being the political head, highly exalted above all degrees in the kingdom, must be provident and solicitous for the temporal interest, and the eternal benefit of his subjects. He must make laws holy, just and good, as becomes his lieutenancy to Christ, and to command the execution of them. He is to consider that the actions of kings are examples, and their examples rules, more influential unto the lives of their subjects than their laws.
Those who are in the seat of judicature, must dispense judgment with a clear serenity, with calm tranquillity of mind, without partiality and passions ; they must not honour the rich, nor favour the poor, but be true to their light, and integrity.
All that are concerned, in their several stations, should dispense a vigorous influence for the suppressing vice, and encouragement of virtue: and according to the apostle's rule, "should be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to those who do well.” Especially they should be clothed with zeal in punishing offenders, that do not hide their horrid abominations, but commit them without fear of the light of the sun or of nature, and out-dare satan : when impudence, and incontinence, and intemperance,
triumph in the ruins of modesty, chastity, and sobriety. Seneca tells of some in old Rome, that were not ashamed of the foulest sins, but when described and represented on the theatre, “gloried in their shame.” * This height of villany was not limited to the age of Nero, but to this extremity vice is arrived in our times. If by just severity, such public and crying wickedness be not suppressed, what reason is there to fear that the righteous judge of the world will make the nation a spectacle of visible vengeance, and vindicate the honour of his despised Deity? How will magistrates, that are careless in the execution of the laws, appear before the impartial tribunal above, when besides the guilt of their sins by personal commission, they shall be charged with the sins committed by their connivance, such heaped damnation will sink them into the lowest hell.
The duty of subjects, is the highest reverence of the sacred authority wherewith princes are invested. They must pay tribute for the support of the government.
of the government. They must obey for God, as princes must rule for God; but in sinful things, as princes have no power to command, so the subjects are under no obligation to obey.
To conclude this argument, there is no counsel more directive and profitable for our arriving to an excellent degree of holiness, than this : let our progress in the way to heaven be with the same zeal, as we felt in our first entrance into it, and with the same seriousness, as when we shall come to the end of it. The first and last actions of the saints, are usually the most excellent. David's first and last ways were most excellent ; see his divine frame near his end : “ although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: this is all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” 2 Sam. 23. 5. New converts when “ called out of darkness into the marvellous light of the gospel, are more zealous in their opposition to sin." 1 Pet. 2: 9. 2 Chron. 17. 3. and more active and cheerful in the service of God. The bitterness of repentance, before reconciliation, causes an abhorrence of sin. They remember the prayers and tears, the anxieties of conscience, the restless hours that sin cost them. As one that is saved from fire that was ready to devour him, retains so strong an impression of the danger, that makes him fearful ever after. They are filled with the affections of love and thankfulness to God, and glorify mercy that spared them, when justice might have destroyed them. When no eye had compassion, and no relief was afforded in their extreme misery : when they loathed themselves, frighted with the image of satan printed on their souls, then God did regard them with tender affection: when they fled from him, then he did overtake them by preventing and prevailing grace. They have the quickest sense of their obligations to the Redeemer, and the most sensible relishes of his love, in communion with him. We read of the lame man from his birth, that upon his miraculous healing, when he felt a new current of spirits in his nerves, and his feet and arms were strengthened, that “ he entered with the apostles into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising of God.” This is a resemblance of the zealous affections of new converts, when they feel such an admirable change in them: “ they run in the ways of God's commandments with enlarged hearts :" they have such flashes of illumination, and raptures of joy, that engage them in à course of obedience. The Holy Spirit inspires them with new desires, and affords new pleasures to endear religion to them. It is not only their work, but recreation and reward. But alas how often are the first heats allayed, and stronger resolutions decline to remissness. Our Saviour tells the church of Ephesus, “ I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love : remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works.” It is said of Jehosaphat, that “ he walked in the first ways of his father David :” intimating there was a visible declension in his zeal. He was not so accurate in his conversation afterward. The converted are many times not so frequent and fervent in God's service, and though by the constraining judgment of conscience, duties are not totally omitted, yet they are not performed with that reverence and delight as at first. They are more venturous to engage themselves in temptations, and more ready to comply with them. They are tired with the length of their travel, and the difficulties of their way, and drive on heavily. We should with tears of confusion remember the disparity between our zealous beginnings, and slack prosecution in religion ; we should blush with shame, and tremble with fear, at the strange decay of grace, and recollect ourselves, and reinforce our will to proceed with vigorous constancy. And when the saints are ready to enter into the unchangeable state, when“ the spirit is to return to God that gave it,” how entire and intent are they to finish the work of their salvation ? How spiritual and heavenly are their dispositions? With what solemnity do they prepare for the divine presence ? How exactly do they dress their souls for eternity, and trim their lamps, that they may be admitted into the joys of the bridegroom? How is the world vilified in their esteem, and unsavoury to their desires ? “ The Lord is exalted in that day.”
* Plaudit & viciis suis fieri convicium gaudet,
The nearer they approach to heaven, the more its attractive force is felt. When the crown of glory is in their view, and they hear the music of heaven, and are refreshed with the fragrancy of paradise, what a blaze of holy affections breaks forth ? When Jacob was blessing his sons upon his death-bed, he in a sudden rapture addresses himself to God, “ O Lord, I have waited for thy salvation !” As if his soul had ascended to heaven before it left the body. “O when shall I appear before God!” was the fainting desire of the psalmist. If communion with God in the earthly tabernacle was so precious, how much more is the imme. diate fruition of him in the celestial temple ? If“ one day in the courts below be worth a thousand, an hour in the courts above is worth ten thousand.”
Let us therefore by our serious thoughts often represent to ourselves the approaches of death and judgment. This will make us contrive and contend for perfection in holiness. The apostle exhorts the Romans to “ show forth the power of godliness," from the consideration of the day of grace they enjoy, and the day of glory they expect; “ for now is salvation nearer than when you believed." Let us do those things now, which when we come to die we shall wish we had done. Thus doing, we shall be transmitted from the militant church to the triumphant, with a solemn testimony of our having adorned the gospel in our lives, with the victorious testimony of conscience, that we have fought the good fight, kept the faith, and have finished our course," and received with the glorious testimony of our blessed rewarder, “ well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Davies & Booth, Printers, Vicar Lane, Leeds.