Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ward state of their own minds, and in the favour of God. Had such principles regulated our legislation in general, and imbued our country at large, Britain would have been, far more than it is, a holy nation, fearing God and working righteousness.

But in contradiction to this, there is a relaxing of righteous laws on one hand, and, on the other, a spirit of lawlessness that endeavours to throw contempt on the authority of law, and the decisions of justice, by constituted authorities. True it is that we must obey God rather than man, whatever human authorities determine ; but we must not make our own rebellious will our idol ; we must not speak evil of dignities, nor be presumptuous and self-willed. We must yield neither to corrupt authorities on the one hand, nor to lawlessness on the other, but simply, entirely, and unreservedly, yield to the Lord our God and his revealed will. Contrast evils, in all ages, try the Church of God. Thus the primitive Church had as equally to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, as of that of the Sadducees. Another national duty to God is

3. THE CONFESSION AND DIFFUSION OF TRUTH.

Nebuchadnezzar in his decree, says, I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs ! and how mighty are his wonders ! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and estol the King of heaven. This is the true and safe position of a faithful monarch before God. Every monarch restored to a sound state of mind in the sight of God, as Nebuchadnezzar was, will thus openly and faithfully confess and diffuse the truth of God.

This is the duty of every monarch, and of every government. It is a very superficial objection to say that heathen governments must therefore propagate heathenism, and idolaters diffuse idolatry. The clear answer to this objection is, that it is the duty of rulers first to learn the truth. Here God has never left himself without witness, in the constant goodness of his providence, to those really seeking after him. Having sought and attained the truth, their duty is then to promote it with all the influence of their station, and by all the means which the nature of that truth allows. In a country where the word of God is open to all, truth is attainable to every faithful reader of that word, or else the Gospel is a mockery and a dream. All men are responsible to God for using the means of attaining his truth; and much more are rulers, and governors, and nations, acting in their national capacity, seeing that such vast consequences hang upon their due performance of this duty. Hence pious kings are commended for using their power and influence to promote religion. Pious Asa reforms abuses in religion. 2 Chron. xiv. 2-4; xv. 8. Pious Jehoshaphat commands the priests and Levites to teach the law of the Lord, and the judges to reform abuses. 2 Chron. xvii. 7-9; xix. 411. Pious Hezekiah takes counsel with the princes to celebrate the Passover (2 Chron. xxx. 2), and appoints the courses of the priests (2 Chron. xxxi. 2), and pious Josiah takes an oath of the people to keep the law (2 Kings xxiii. 2, 3); and these acts are their true glory, and are recorded in the word for the instruction and pattern of all monarchs to whom God has given knowledge and the love of his truth.

Thus responsible are governments for confessing before others, and diffusing that precious light of Divine truth, which they have received. It is a talent entrusted to them, and if they employ it not, they are like that evil servant who hid his talent in a napkin, and received so decided a condemnation from his Lord. Excuses may be multiplied before men, but no excuse against the performance of so clear a duty will avail in the presence of Christ.

All this, at this time, is eminently true of the British nation, exalted in Christian privilege, wealth, and enlarged dominion, as it is above other nations. Its prominence in the eye of the world is peculiar, its means of knowledge abundant, its means of diffusing that knowledge are immense, and the preciousness of the souls which we may now benefit is infinite.

Here again, then, we have brought before us our deep national guilt. Our worldliness, our ambition, and our religious differences, are the great hindrance to this

Y

duty; and these things are our sin and our shame. Oh, that God may give us grace each duly to weigh, as in his sight, the severe account to be hereafter given for any share in this guilt ; and, most of all, may it please the Lord to grant grace to legislators and governors in the State, and to rulers, ministers, and teachers in the Church, deeply to consider their personal responsibility for the national neglect of this duty.

There are two great sources of the evil. On the one hand, heartless indifference to Divine truth, and, on the other hand, idolizing of outward forms, and ceremonial or ecclesiastical distinctions. These sins are to be broken off by righteousness; attaining through the Word and the Spirit of God a right state of mind and heart in his sight, and then doing that which He in his Word has called us to do; in short, to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, to confess him before men, and to keep his commandments, which are, supreme love to God, and unfeigned love to man. This is the righteousness to which He calls us. Nothing else will save us or our country from ruin. Love to the truth, love to all who hold the truth, united and national zeal for the promotion of the truth,—these would be good and bright tokens of England's safety and prosperity. A nation which accounts proselytism to the truth as a sin, has apostatised from its duty and its highest glory. The salt has then lost its savour, and it is good for nothing in God's sight but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men.

CHAP. II.

NATIONAL DUTIES TOWARDS MEN.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR,

the king of Babylon, was guilty of two evils. He was an ambitious conqueror, full of pride ; and he was careless of the welfare of the poor. These two evils beset kingdoms that have been successful in war, and have extended dominion, such as the leading kingdoms of Europe at this time.

Two important national duties towards our fellowmen—the repression of warlike ambition, and mercy to the poor—are thus suggested.

1. THE REPRESSION OF WARLIKE AMBITION.

This is taught by the emblem of the wild beasts. It shows us one grand sin of the nations, and the character in which it is viewed by the Lord of all ; as a ravenous, untamed, destructive beast, bringing death and misery where it prevails. The history of the world is full of illustrations of these evils of warlike ambition. *

* Well does Milton describe it

'To overcome in battle, and subdue
Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human glory; and for glory done
Of triumph, to be styled great conquerors,
Patrons of mankind, Gods, and sons of Gods,
Destroyers, rightlier called, and plagues of men.'-Book xi.

« ForrigeFortsett »