Page images
PDF
EPUB

has been greatly oppressed by the civil power ; but the time is coming when the scene will be changed.

Here then it may be enquired, what are the ways in which civil government may, and will subserve the designs of Christ's kingdom ?

1. Negatively, not by being immediately concerned in the government of Christ's kingdom. This is a distinct kingdom, to be governed by its own laws. Civil government has done infinite mischief, by attempting to extend its laws and influence to the church of God. Such attempts tend to jostle it from its own foundation. They have introduced numberless corruptions, oppressions, and persecutions. Christ's kingdom was not to be thus left to civil rulers, and it is robbing Christ of his prerogative to attempt to extend civil power to the Christian church. Civil government, though in its very institution, designed ultimately for the benefit of Christ's church ; yet is not immediately concerned with religion or the kingdom of Christ : But has for its immediate object, the welfare of civil society. At the same time, it must be admitted that good civil government, and the government of Christ's church are so far from interfering, that they are of mutual advantage.

2. Nor has civil government a right to bind the conscience. Liberty of conscience, where conscience can be supposed to be concerned, ought, without doubt, to be enjoyed. We must all answer for ourselves, at the tribunal of our judge, and ought not to be restrained by the civil power from pursuing what we esteem the dictates of religion. I conceive therefore, that the establishment of religion by civil authority, as in Europe, is a stretch of prerogative. It does not belong to the civil power to prescribe forms of worship, creeds and confessions. Whatever aid and support civil government may lend ; yet the church must be governed by its own laws, and stand on its own foundation.

But I proceed to show positively,

1. That good civil government is of great advantage to Christ's kingdom, as it is adapted to civilize man, and thereby gives the gospel an advantage. Although the power of God is the only ground of hope in regard to any ; yet God usually works by rational means : And we find, that the gospel has never had much success among barbarous and uncivilized nations. It was in Greece and Rome, where the human mind had, before the coming of Christ, been greatly improved, and government carried to great perfection, that the gospel met with the most abundant success. Whereas, in the barbarous parts of Africa, the gospel never had much success. I

repeat it therefore i Though it is wholly of God to save, yet God works ordinarily by rational means. It is said that the Bereans were noble, or possessed a greater share of candor, than those of Thessalonica, which led them to search the scriptures, and there. fore, it is said, many of them believed. Acts xvii. 11, 12,

Civilization tends to remove that superstition and contraction of mind which are a bar to attention.

2. Civil government will be improved as an actvantage to che designs of Christ's kingdom, as it is adapted to regulate the morals of men, and give a check to their licentiousness. It is the duty of civil rulers to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise and encouragement to them that do well. There are many

vices which are destructive to civil society, such as fraud, injustice, intemperance, and prophaneness.- Taking the name of God in vain, and contempt of the sacred institutions, tend to destroy the validity of civil tests and to promote

general licentiousness of manners. Indeed, good civil government tends to regulate men's morals agreeable to the dictates of revelation. In this respect, the laws and principles of Christ's kingdom and good civil government are of great mutual advantage. The instructions of the gospel tend to influence men's morals, and the restraint of laws to give the gospel an advantage. Their united force is peculiarly necessary in order to bear down vice in this licentious age, and in a State, where many, for a long time, lived in a great measure withoui the restraints of government. Greater exertions are now, therefore, rendered expedient. It is important that rulers set good examples; that those who are appointed to make and execute laws, should themselves observe them. If those who fill the legislative and executive departments

government, are themselves profane, immoral and intemperate, their laws and measures for suppressing vice, will have but little efficacy. There are laws against the violation of the Sabbath, ảnd against many other hurtful vices, but they are but little regarded. And may not this be one reason of it, that all in places of public trust, do not themselves carefully observe them? If our civil fathers, who are appointed to make laws, disregard them themselves, we may well think that they are not in earnest in the matter.

It is of importance, that those who rule men, should be just, ruling in the fear of God. It is especially important that their motives and conduct should be just. --As good civil government tends to check and restrain the licentiousness of men, and regulate their morals, so the church of God derives from this source, incalculable advantage. The All-wise Governor of the world has seen fit, by numberless means, in addition to the gospel plan, to lay a yariety of checks on the licentiousness and wicked. ness of men, and among these, civil government is one of highest importance.

3. Good civil government will be rendered subservient to the cause of God, as it will tend to encourage the improvement of the human mind, and especially, the instruction of children and youth. Without some degree of improvement of the human mind, all attempts to civilize will be but of little avail. Men, without the enlargement of rational improvement, will be barbarous and rough in their manners. Indeed, ignorance exposes to political and ecclesiastical tyranny.Many, it is true, who have had a good education, make a very ill improvement of it, which circumstance prejudices the minds of many against ed. ucation : But it is to be remembered, that the greatest blessings are often misimproved.

That rational improvement which good civil government will encourage, is, in various points of light, of religious advantage. The gospel itself is of advantage, only as men can read it, or receive religious instruction about it. There seems but little encouragement to attempt gospel instruction, while men are ignorant of the first principles of knowedge. Rational improvement is necessary to render men useful in promoting the designs of the kingdom of God.

4. Good civil government will subserve the designs of Christ's kingdom, as it will encourage in. dustry and economy.

Indolence and sloth are of unhappy tendency in a State.

Where industry and economy are neglected, an. State cannot flourish ; but will be beset with many vices, hurtful both in a political and religious view. Where there is idleness, there is cominonly tavernehaunting, gaming, profane swearing, and a general corruption of manners, which tend

to stupify the minds of men, and are unfavorable to the designs of the gospel.

5. Under a good civil government, rulers will be nursing fathers to the church, and will extend to it their friendship and support.

The kingdom of Christ is a distinct kingdom, and to be governed by its own laws: But still, there is no inconsistency in saying that civil rulers, as they derive from the principles and institutions of the gospel; singular political benefit, inay extend to it their care, succour and support, where it does not interfere with the dictates of conscience. The Scripture is abundant in predicting a future change in this respect, which shall be favorable to the church of God. The prophet Isaiah declares, that the time is coming, when rulers shall be friends to Christ and his cause. They are said to come to the brightness of the rising of the church. See Isaiah lx. 3. and to minister to the church of God. See verse 10, and. « kings shall minister unto thee." She is said to suck the breasts of kings. See verse 15.

And in the 17th verse, God promises, “I will make thy oficers peace and thine exactors righteousness."

However the matter may appear in other re. spects, this is promised as a great blessing, that the church is to enjoy the friendship, succour and aid of civil government ; that the arm that has oppressed the people of God, shall lift them up'; that the kingdom shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High God : That holiness to the Lord shall be inscribed on all things, and God shall improve alt his works and institutions for their original purpose and design. And may we not be allowed to indulge some pleasing prospects in regard to these great events, from some late glorious revivals of religion in different parts

« PreviousContinue »