Page images
PDF
EPUB

others might either say or do, he would approve himself to God as an active magistrate, and a conscientious servant of the Most High. That he did not go forth as one who was not authorized to execute the laws, is evident from the commendation given to him both by God and man: and therefore he stands as a pattern for all magistrates to discharge their official duties manfully, without favour and without fear.

What a blessing such magistrates are to any land, may be seen in the benefits which, by that one act, Phinehas obtained for the whole nation of Israel. On his executing of judgment, the plague was stayed. Four and twenty thousand, in the whole, had perished in one day; and, had he delayed to discharge his duty in this matter till his brethren in office should join him, no one can tell how many thousands more would have fallen a sacrifice to the wrath of God. But by this act of his he “ made atonement for the children of Israel,” and “ averted God's wrath from them.” He arrested also the progress of iniquity; and obtained for himself the highest honours, even “ the covenant of an everlasting priesthood :” and “this act of his was counted to him for righteousness unto all generations for evermorea.”

We are not to suppose that this act formed his justifying righteousness before God; for not all the obedience of the best of men could ever avail for that: but it proved to all future generations that he was a righteous man, and that no consideration under heaven could deter him from a faithful discharge of his duties, whether to God or man.

Now such a blessing are conscientious magistrates in every age and in every land: and they who boldly maintain the authority of the laws, however they may be traduced and calumniated for a season, are, indeed, the most honourable members of society, and, sooner or later, will receive the approbation of every considerate man. The obligations we owe to such are, at this moment, seen and felt through the

d

ver. 31.

land, in the suppression of outrage, and in the diminution of the terrors diffused through the whole country by reckless and desperate incendiaries. And I cannot but hope that the firmness manifested both by the civil and legal powers IN OUR SISTER ISLER, will be attended with a similar blessing from the Most High. It is right, it is necessary, that law should rule: and, if it cannot be upheld, but by the exercise of severity towards those who would trample it under their feet, it is right that those who set it at nought should be made victims of their own folly and wickedness. I say again, the law must rule ; and neither the many nor the great are to set it aside. And if in the suppression of evil somewhat of laxity prevailed amongst us for a season, that time is past, and shall not readily, I hope, return again. The whole people of the land, though but too easily wrought upon by factious demagogues, are yet in their cooler moments united firmly in this one sentiment, that, if not even the King himself can rule but according to law, neither factious demagogues, nor an excited populace, are to be suffered to rule contrary to law. This is acknowledged now through all the grades of society; and, I trust, will ever be maintained amongst us by those whose office it is, whether as magistrates or jurors, to administer justice, and to uphold and execute the laws.

But I observed that this action of Phinehas may also be considered as a ministerial act of piety towards God.

In this light it is placed by God himself: “ Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that. I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made an atone

e The agitator O'Connell checked by Lord Anglesea and Mr. Stanley, and made to plead guilty.-Jan. 1831.

ment for the children of Israel?." He was the presumptive heir to the high-priesthood: and with his own hand he here offered an atonement to his offended God, for whose honour he was deeply interested, and whose wrath he laboured to avert. In this so far as his zeal for God's honour was concerned, he is a pattern for ministers in all future ages. As to the act itself, that was peculiar to the situation and circumstances in which he stood: nor is any man now authorized to follow his example. Not the first man on earth is at liberty to take the law into his own hand, and to execute its sentence in the summary way that he did. Every thing now must be transacted through a legal process, and by officers specially appointed to that end. But the same zeal as animated the soul of Phinehas, should glow in the bosom of every minister of Christ. The aboundings of iniquity should occasion“ great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart” in all who serve in God's sanctuary; yea, “ rivers of tears should run down their eyes night and day” because of the dishonour which is done to God by a thoughtless and rebellious world.

But to exercise a becoming zeal for God is no easy matter; and any person standing forth, as Phinehas, to stem the torrent of wickedness which flows around him, will be exposed to much obloquy as a bold fanatical enthusiast. In every age such ministers have “been for signs and for wonders” in the Church of God. At the time of the deluge we hear of but one person, Noah, who dared to enter his protest against the impiety of the world around him. In Elijah's time, though there were seven thousand who were not addicted to the reigning sin, there was but one who openly declaimed against it. And so it is now. There are doubtless many thousands of persons in the land, both of ministers and people, who withstand in secret the corruptions of the world; but yet any man, who, like Phinehas, should stand

up

with becoming zeal to arrest the progress of iniquity,

f Numb. xxv. 11–13.

would be accounted “ a troubler of our Israel," and be condemned for his needless, his insufferable, preciseness. But whence is this? It is owing to the lukewarmness of the generality, and not to any undue energy in those who serve the Lord.

Of all people under heaven, a minister of Christ is most bound to exert himself in the cause of his Divine Master. Ministers are intended to be “lights in a dark world ;' yea, they are “ the salt of the earth,” which, by its influence, is destined to keep the whole world from corruption. Nor ought any consideration either of hope or of fear to sway them in the least. They should be unmoved by seductions of any kind, and should be ready to lay down their own lives for the honour of God, and the welfare of their fellowcreatures. Yes, this is the sacrifice which they should be ready to make: for so says the holy Apostle : “ If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all: do ye also joy and rejoice with me.” Here the Apostle considers his converts as an offering to God: and, as libations were poured forth upon the offerings, he accounted his heart's blood as a proper libation to be poured forth for them; and the shedding of it an occasion for most unqualified joy.

For the averting of God's wrath, it is true, we can offer no atonement. But we can speak of an atonement which has been offered, even that once offered by our blessed Lord upon the cross; and that is a sufficient " propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” But how shall I speak of that? If we admire the zeal of Phinehas, who offered to God an atonement by the sacrifice of the offenders, what shall I say of our great High-Priest, who has made an atonement by the sacrifice of himself, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God ? Here was zeal indeed, and a love that passeth knowledge." But by this it is that God is pacified towards us. There is, alas! a moral plague prevailing throughout our whole camp, and slaying its tens of thousands in

& Phil. ii. 17, 18.

a day. But by means of this atonement we are empowered both to arrest its progress, and to take away its guilt.

And need I say, that such ministers are a blessing in the land ? Truly they are a blessing, and shall be accounted so as long as the world shall stand. What if, like Phinehas, they overstep the bounds observed by their more lukewarm fellows? They shall, like him, be honoured both by God and man; whilst the memory of less faithful ministers shall pass away into oblivion, like a morning cloud. Their zeal shall be counted to them for righteousness to the latest ages : not for their justifying righteousness, as I have before observed; for in Christ alone can that righteousness be found, and from him it must be received by faith alone: but, as an evidence of their piety, it shall be counted to them, and be a ground of praise and thanksgiving to God amongst all who shall be called to imitate their bright example.

What then do I look for on this occasion ? I call for zeal, even for the zeal of Phinehas, in all the magistrates, and in all the ministers, of our land. In Phinehas these offices were united; as in some instances they are amongst ourselves; though I think, for the most part, unhappily and unwisely. A minister, instead of affecting a double occupation, should rather say, with our blessed Lord, “Who made me a ruler and a judge over you?” And sure I am, that, if a minister will give himself entirely to his own proper work, he will find enough to occupy all his time and all his thoughts. The offices of the magistracy and the ministry are perfectly distinct. Magistrates have to uphold and enforce the laws of man; ministers have to propagate the glorious gospel of the blessed God. The office of the magistrate has respect to the temporal welfare of mankind; the office of a minister is to promote, in every possible way, their spiritual and eternal interests. Still, however, there should be in both a cordial and energetic co-operation for the honour of God, and for the good of man. A minister often needs the support of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »