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civil, are amongst the conspicuous parts of both Testaments; not only in examples, which is authority, but in precepts, which is obligation. Are we, as all are, concerned that the blessings of nature may be imparted to our land “Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.” Or are we more especially interested in the continuance of those civil blessings, which give, even to the bounty of nature, no small share of its value and enjoyment? * I exhort that first of all supplication, prayer, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority;’ and this is in order that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.’ The meaning of this passage is clearly, Pray for them, not for their sakes, either alone or principally, but for the common happiness, that under the protection of a regular government we may practise religion and enjoy tranquillity. “This is good,” saith the apostle, ‘and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” ‘O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for there is the seat of judgment, even the seat of the house of David; for my brethren and companions' sake I will wish thee prosperity, yea, because of the house of the Lord God, I will seek to do thee good.’ Jerusalem was to the Psalmist what our country is to us, the seat of his affections, his family, his brethren, and companions, his laws, religion, and his temple. But again, must we look to seasons of calamity and visitation ; have we not the father of the faithful interceding face to face with the divine messenger, for a devoted land ‘O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this time.” Or rather, because the piety of the patriarch was unsuccessful, hear the leader and lawgiver of the Jewish nation effectually supplicating for his threatened and offending, but now penitent followers; ‘Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people 2 remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people.” Or lastly, let us attend him in the most solemn of all devotions, which seem to have been performed in the history of the world; in that sublime prayer which he offered up in behalf of his country; ‘If they pray towards this place and confess thy name, and turn from their sin when thou afflictest them, then hear thou in heaven, thy dwellingplace; and when thou hearest, forgive ; forgive the sin of thy servants and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way, wherein they should walk. If thy people go out to battle against their
enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name, then hear thou in
heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.”
PROVERBs XIV. 34.
Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
THERE are many propositions, which, though they be reasonable and true in themselves, and acknowledged to be so, make very little impression upon our minds. They glide through our thoughts without effect, and without leaving a trace behind them. Yet, the selfsame propositions, when they are brought back to our reflection by any experience, or by any incident that falls under our observation, especially any in which we ourselves are concerned, shall be found to have a weight, a justice, a sigmificancy in them which they never appeared to possess before. This seems to be the case with the words of Solomon which I have now read to you. That ‘righteousness exalteth a nation,” is one of those moral maxims which no man chooses to contradict. Every hearer assents to it; but it is an assent without meaning; there is no value or importance or application perceived in the words. But when such things happen as have happened, when we have seen, and that at our doors, a mighty empire falling from the summit of what the world calls grandeur to the very abyss and bottom, not of external weakness, but of internal misery and distress, and that for want of virtue and of religion in the inhabitants, on one side probably as well as on the other, we begin to discover that there is not only truth, but momentous instruction in the text, when it teaches us that it is ‘righteousness which exalteth a nation.” It is virtue, and virtue alone, which can make either nations happy or governmentS Secure.
France wanted nothing but virtue; and by that want she fell. If the fairest region of Europe, if a numerous population,
if the nominal wealth which arises from the money of a country, if large foreign possessions, if armies and fleets, if a splendid court and nobility, could have given firmness to a state, these were all possessed by her to a degree which hardly, I believe, any other nation could pretend to. Her fate, therefore, is, and ought to be, a standing lesson to the world that something more than external prosperity is necessary; and that something is, internal goodness and virtue. * I know not how I can employ the present solemn occasion, and the still more solemn admonition which the transactions that have lately gone on, and are still going on in the world, ought to convey to us, better, than by illustrating the assertion of the text, that it is by the people being good, and by that alone, that any country can be happy, or any government safe. And first of all, I would observe to you, that whatever new opinions have sprung up in France, and of some of which they have learnt the effects by sore experience, the wisest men of the last age, in that very country, men also firmly and boldly attached to public liberty, have said this; that the principles of Christianity are more favorable to good government than any principles of any philosopher or politician can be. For the celebrated French writer to whom I allude, after stating exactly what sort of a principle was suited to a monarchy, what to an aristocracy, and what to a republic, concludes by declaring, that although there be principles proper to each form of government, the principles of the christian religion, so far as it prevailed, are better, more useful, and more effectual than them all. And in my judgment our author, in saying that, has said no more than what reason will bear him out in. The true Christian must be a good subject; because, having been accustomed to fix his eyes and hopes upon another world, a future state of existence, ‘a more abiding city,” “a tabernacle not of this building,” his first care concerning the present state of things is to pass quietly and peaceably and innocently through it. Now this is the very disposition to be desired in human society; it is the disposition which keeps each man in his station, and what is more, keeps him contented with it. A man upon whom Christianity hath shed this temper, can never wish for disturbance, because he cannot wish to have that calm and even course of life broken up, by going on Soberly and peaceably in which, he feels himself doing his duty, and feels from thence, the highest of human satisfaction, that he is gradually making himself ready for, and advancing towards, his re
ward in heaven. He will not have his progress stopped, his journey interrupted. I will not say that no case of public provocation can happen which would move him; but it must be a case clear and strong, it must be a species of necessity. He will not stir until he see a great and good end to be attained, and not indeed a certain, because nothing in human life is so, but a rational and practicable way of attaining it. Nothing extravagant, nothing chimerical, nothing in any considerable degree doubtful, will be deemed a sufficient reason with him for hazarding the loss of that tranquillity in which he earnestly, for himself at least, desires to pass the days of his sojourning here upon earth. Then as to all ambitious, aspiring views, which are the great annoyance of public peace and order, they are killed and excluded in the heart of a Christian. If he have any ambition, it is the silent ambition of pleasing his Maker. If he aspire to any thing, it is the hope, and yet even that a humble and subdued hope, of salvation after his death. That religion, therefore, by its proper nature generates in the heart a disposition, though never adverse, but always friendly to public order and to good government, inasmuch as public order cannot be maintained in the world without it, is, I think, a general and plain truth, and is confirmed by experience, as well as dictated by reason, for although the name and pretence of religion, have at divers times been made the name and pretence of sedition and of unjustifiable insurrection against established authority, religion never was. But secondly ; religion is not only a source and support of national happiness, but the only source and support to be relied on. I mean, that there arise such vicissitudes and revolutions in human affairs, that nothing but this can be expected to remain or is adapted to the changes which the course of this world is sure to bring along with it. To expect always to continue in health would be a most unreasonable expectation in any man living; and to possess a temper of mind which would be pleased and easy whilst we were well, but which could bear neither pain nor sickness, would be a very unsuitable temper, a very poor provision of spirits to go through the world with. It is just so in civil life. To be quiet whilst all things go on well; to be pleased in prosperity; not to complain when we thrive; not to murmur or accuse amidst affluence and plenty, is a state of mind insufficient to meet the exigences of human affairs. Great varieties and alterations, both of personal and natural condition, will inevitably take place. Rich men will become poor, and the poor will become distressed; and this whatever course of prosperity a nation seeks. If a people go into trade and manufactures, innumerable accidents will fall out in the circumstances either of the country itself, or of other countries with which it is connected, for it depends upon them also, that must check and interrupt the progress and extent of its commerce. No wisdom hath ever yet been able to prevent these changes, or ever can. If the cultivation of the soil be more followed, and trade less so ; still, though the public security be greater, the security of individuals is not greater. A harsh season, a storm, a flood, a week or even a day of unfavorable weather, may spoil the hopes and profits of a year. Disappointments therefore, and losses, and those to a very great extent, will happen to many. Now there is but one temper which can prepare the mind for changes in our worldly affairs, and that is the temper which Christianity inspires. The Christian regards prosperity at all times, not only as subject to constant peril and uncertainty, but even at the best, and in its securest state, if any state of prosperity can be called secure, regards it as an inferior object of his solicitude ; inferior to a quiet conscience, inferior to the most humble endeavours to please God, and infinitely inferior to the prospect of future salvation. The consequence of viewing worldly prosperity in this light, which is the safest and truest light in which it can be seen, is, that the Christian uses it when it falls to his lot with moderation; considers it as a trust, as a talent committed to him; as adding to his anxiety, and increasing his obligation to do good, and thereby bringing with it a burden and accountableness which almost overbalances its value. And for the same reason that he uses the good things of life temperately and cautiously whilst they are his, he parts from them, or sees the diminution of them, with equanimity. When he had them, he was far from making or considering them as instruments of luxury, indulgence, or ostentation; least of all, of intemperance and excess. Now therefore that he has them not, he has none of those pernicious gratifications to resign. Whatever be a man's worldly estate, a true Christian sees in it a state of probation, of trial, of preparation, of passage. If it be a state. of wealth and plenty, it is only that; if it be a state of adversity, it is still the same. The only difference is, whether he come at last out of the fire,’ tried by the temptations of prosperity or by the strokes of misfortune and the visitations of want; and he who acquits himself as he ought in one condition, will be equally accepted and equally approved as he who acquits himself as he ought in the other. We are wont to admire the