« ForrigeFortsett »
is above all nations, at this time, and in the prospect of the speedy coming of our Lord and Saviour.
That faithful prophet after clearly showing the king what was before him in the providence of God, thus addresses him : Wherefore, o king, let my counsel be be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. Dan. iv. 27.
This direction is especially seasonable now to this nation. The second coming of Christ is not merely a doctrine needful and profitable for our personal edification as private Christians, but it has also a most important connexion with the duties of nations at large. He is the Prince of the kings of the earth. To him rulers and governors have to give account for the maxims of their government in all their relations to time and eternity. How very different is the view of national duty when thus realized to any view that merely regards earthly and temporary considerations. Parliaments, Senates, and Statesmen have a Supreme Governor, who will shortly summon all to his bar of judgment, and all their measures, laws and statutes, will be revised at his judgment seat, whose approval, whose condemnation, infallibly righteous, final, irreversible, and everlasting, will be found to be the one judgment, mainly to be regarded, and of supreme importance.
Nebuchadnezzar was an example on this subject. The wonderful vision which he had interpreted by the
prophet Daniel, is full of abiding instruction. He was told, Thou, 0 King, art a king of kings, for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, and power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. As monarch of the first universal empire he had all power and might. He was also full of ambition and pride, and this brought upon him his merited punishment ; and upon that followed his repentance, and then his restoration. His debasement is that of all governments, when they shall rule for their own glory, and not the glory of Christ.
In the fourth chapter of Daniel, we have Nebuchadnezzar's full acknowledgment and public confession of his sin, in not knowing that the Most High ruled in the kingdom of men, closing with praises to God for his restoration. It is a decree published to all people, nations, and languages that dwell upon all the earth. It belongs to all, and God has secured its widest publication, by directing his beloved servant Daniel to include it in the inspired writings of his own word. There is reason to think it a typical history of the recovery
of the nations of the earth from all their idolatries to the worship and service of God at the return of our Lord and Saviour. It is full of seasonable, suitable, and practical instruction to us now.
The advice of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, given in the prospect of severe judgments, was, Wherefore, 0 King, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor ; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. This advice applies to nations now in the prospect of the Lord's return to judge the earth, and take vengeance on his proud and rebellious creatures. It directs governments to the only safe course, for the welfare of the country over which they rule. God's judgments, if they be not finally averted, may be delayed by repentance, as we see in the case of Nineveh. There may be a lengthening of our tranquillity; or if that be impossible, through general national iniquity, there will, at any rate, be a deliverance of our own souls.
In this advice of Daniel we may observe a twofold duty, like the two tables of the law ; sins against God are to be broken off by righteousness, and iniquities against man, by shewing mercy to the poor.
Let us in this chapter consider,
NATIONAL DUTIES TOWARDS GOD.
Every part of God's word may shew us that such duties exist. If nations, as such, are capable of engagements towards each other, they must be capable of duties and obligations towards God himself. If they nationally confess their obligations to God, and fulfil them, they are religious and blessed ; if they reject and deny them as nations, they are under a curse for their ungodliness.
This is a most important principle to be insisted upon at this time, when we are exposed to two opposite evils ; either a blind submission to corrupt authorities seeking to bring us into bondage by mere self-righteous formalism on the one hand; or the contrast evil, the lawless rejection of human authority.
The absolute duty of monarchs and nations to give their royal and national support to the truth as it is in Jesus, is clearly revealed in the word of God, and is the very foundation of the British Constitution, fully laid at the glorious Reformation, and distinctly manifested at every fresh coronation of our monarchs. It is predicted of the Redeemer, that he shall bear the glory, and sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne. It is equally a rejection of his rights to deny or withhold his supremacy, either in ecclesiastical or in civil legislature and government. Very clearly has our British Constitution announced this, when the archbishop says to the monarch at the coronation, ‘Remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer. For he is the Prince of the Kings of the earth, King of kings, and Lord of lords ; so that no man can reign happily who derives not his authority from him, and directs not all his actions according to his laws.' There can be no neutrality on this question. To profess neutrality respecting the supreme authority of Christ and his Word in legislation and government is to number ourselves with his avowed enemies. In short, all power in heaven and earth is given to our Lord Jesus Christ, is distributed by him as he pleases, is derived from him, and is to be used for him according to his revealed will. The Divine truth inscribed on the Royal Exchange in the face of the whole metropolis, The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof, is one that should never be forgotten. Until Christianity is made the law of the land in every kingdom, and the law of the heart in every human being, his just rights are withheld ; he is rebelliously kept out of his proper kingdom ; he is defrauded of his own inheritance. In an heraldry that cannot err, in the heraldry of heaven, he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. However any one whatever, monarch, priest, prince, or people, may have refused submission to his authority, or have usurped that authority, or resisted it in those to whom he has given it, he will speedily appear, bring all unto judgment, and destroy those who have rebelled against him. He will now soon return in his glory, reward those faithful to him, and sit on his throne, the acknowledged Monarch of the whole earth. All kings shall fall down before him ; all nations shall serve him. * Vain is it, under the pretence of allegiance to the head of the Church, and of Christian liberty, to refuse submission, in things lawful, to the powers that be and are ordained of God. Equally vain is it, under pretence of submission to the