Изображения страниц

them, was of a fpiritual nature, and fuch as had relation to that fpiritual life, which after being begun on earth, was intended to last for ever in heaven.— This fingle obfervation prefents us with a just view of the difference between these two forts of government, which have the things of earth, and the things of heaven for their several objects: A distinction, which St. Paul in another place feems to point out as worthy of our notice, when he tells us, "the "first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man "is the Lord from heaven."* Our earthy man must therefore be ruled and directed by fuch means and instruments, that is, by fuch forms or modes of government as are fuited to the various fituations of things on this earth; where we are placed for a while, as in a school of inftruction, to fit and prepare us for a more pure and permanent state in that heaven, from which came the fecond man, the Lord,

the Almighty Reftorer of our nature, to establish a government suited to the gracious defign of his coming, and moft admirably calculated to qualify and dispose his happy fubjects for the poffeffion of that unfading inheritance referved for them in "his "everlasting kingdom."

Looking forward, with prophetic eye, to the establishment of this fpiritual kingdom, and to the folemn inauguration of its heavenly King, the infpired Pfalmift might juftly fay of it; " This is the Lord's


* 1 Cor. xv. 47.

"doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." The fetting up a pure and spiritual kingdom in the midst of a carnal and wicked world, and in spite of all the oppofition which the prince of this world could make to it; the founding this fpiritual building on a rock, "against which the gates of hell should not prevail," was furely an aftonishing exertion of divine power, and fuch as evidently fhewed the hand of that Almighty Lord, who can do what he pleaseth both in heaven and in earth.

The "doings" of men are fometimes a little "marvellous in our eyes," when we fee them not only pulling down and deftroying those venerable fabrics of civil government, which have ftood for ages, the pride of human policy,-but even attempting to fubvert the foundation of that ecclefiaftical fyftem, which, refting on the folid ground of divine inftitution, is not to be altered or new modelled, as the work of human device, or in conformity to the manners, the prejudices, or civil conftitutions of the different nations, in which the Chriftian church has obtained a fettlement. Here we cannot but observe a remarkable difference between the "doing of the Lord," and that of man, with regard to the nature of their respective works.What the former does, is done at once, and produced in full perfection, according to the nature of the work, and the defign which God has in view


Pfalm cxviii. 23.

by producing it. It has therefore been justly obferved, that "God never made his works for man "to mend ;" nor does it become a poor, dependent, fallible creature, to interfere with, or pretend to alter, the appointments of the fupreme, all-wife and good Creator. It is enough for man to reform and improve himself, to amend what is amifs in his own conduct, and correct thofe errors and mistakes, which experience will discover in the best and wisest plans of government that have ever been devised by human ingenuity. Thefe, it seems, can only be brought to their admired perfection by flow and leifurely degrees. Even the boafted conftitution of this country, which has been fo often propofed as a pattern to the neighbouring nations, is well known to have been the gradual work of ages, the happy confequence of that progreffive fpirit of improvement, which can never be fo properly exercised, as in contriving means to fupply the defects of human forefight, and to fecure to fociety the benefits arifing from the accumulated experience of fucceffive generations.

All this is very proper and neceffary to be attended to, as far as we are concerned with the works and inventions of men, and obliged to fhew a due regard to the various schemes of human policy, which have been contrived, and established, for thus fecuring, as far as may be, the peace and good government of this world. But the temporal peace and profperity of such a vain and tranfitory world, can


not furely be the only, nor the principal objec, which man has to regard and attend to, confidered as a candidate for eternal happiness in the kingdom of heaven. Viewing himself in this light, he cannot but fee the neceffity of cultivating a proper acquaintance with the laws and government of that kingdom, and of fubmitting to that course of probation and difcipline which has been appointed for the church of Chrift, while militant here on earth, to prepare it for that triumphant ftate, which it is at laft to enjoy with its glorious Head in heaven.When the pious well-difpofed Chriftian fets himself to acquire a proper knowledge of his duty in this respect; what a happy circumftance is it for him, that the nature and conftitution of Chrift's kingdom, as fettled by himself, were fully declared, and made known to his apoftles; those select officers, to whom the original commiffion was given, "to convert the "nations, and teach them to obferve all things what"foever he had commanded them ?" On this fubject every neceffary information may be derived from the doctrine and practice of thefe apostles, as handed down in the infpired writings of the New Teftament, and explained and illuftrated by the concurring teftimony of the firft and pureft ages of the gofpel; all which exhibit in the cleareft light the foundation of the Chriftian church, the form of government established in it, and the manner in which it is to be fupported by its Divine Founder, to the end of the world.


Our knowledge of all these circumstances points out the peculiar nature of that spiritual kingdom erected by Christ, and fhews how widely it differs, even in its first erection, from the kingdoms of this world. Their conftitutions and forms of government are perpetually changing. What one nation adopts, another rejects: What is admired in this age, perhaps will be reprobated in the next; because the mind of man is not capable of fixing to itself any certain standard for adjusting the merits of those numberlefs political theories, which are daily getting abroad into the world. But what was beyond the compass of human ability has been accomplished by divine power and authority. The church or kingdom of God, as we have already obferved, with refpect to his holy religion in general, came good and perfect from his hands, and might well fuffer, but could never be improved by the inventions of men. In tracing it to its pureft fource, the fountains of antiquity must be reforted to, otherwise we fhall fee but darkly into the troubled waters of latter times, which faction and party have been continually ftirring, and thereby producing endless diforder and confufion. Such must always be the cafe, when men attempt to form a religion, and a church for themfelves, and are not fatisfied with what God has provided for them.

We must therefore endeavour to make ourselves fufficiently acquainted with what the goodness of God in this respect has done (or the children of men;

[blocks in formation]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »