Page images
[ocr errors]

were, who encouraged in them the hopes of a speedy return. Το settle their minds on this subject, Jeremiah, the prophet, addressed the following letter to them, in the name of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon, Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them ; take ye wives, and beget sons

1 ; and daughters ; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may

be increased there, and not diminished : and seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall have peace.

I do not suppose that the case of these people applies exactly to ours; but the difference is of such a nature as to heighten our obligations. They were in a foreign land; a land where there was nothing to excite their attachment, but every thing to provoke their dislike. They had enjoyed all the advantages of freedom and independence, but were now reduced to a state of slavery. Nor were they enslaved only: to injury was added insult. They that led them captives required of them mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion! Revenge, in such circumstances, must have seemed natural ; and, if a foreign invader, like Cyrus, had placed an arıny before their walls, it had been excusable, one would have thought, not only to have wished him success, but, if an opportunity had offered, to have joined an insurrection in aid of him : yet nothing like this is allowed. When Cyrus actually took this great city, it does not appear that the Jews did any thing to assist him. Their duty was to seek the welfare of the city, and to pray to the Lord for it, leaving it to the great Disposer of all events to deliver them in his own time; and this, not merely as being right, but wise : In their peace ye shall have peace.

Now, if such was the duty of men in their circumstances, can there be any doubt with respect to ours ? Ought we 'not to seek the good of our native laod; the land of our fathers' sepulchres ; a land, where we are protected by mild and wholesome laws, administered under a paternal prince; a land, where civil and religious freedom are enjoyed in a higher degree than in





any other country in Europe; a land, where God has been known for many centuries as a refuge; a land, in fine, where there are greater opportunities for propagating the gospel, both at home and abroad, than in any nation under heaven? Need I add to this, that the invader was to them a deliverer; but to us, beyond al} doubt, would be a destroyer.

Our object, this evening, will be partly to inquire into the duty of religious people towards their country, and partly to consider the motive by which it is enforced. 1. Inquire into THE DUTY OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE TOWARDS THEIR

Though, as Christians, we are not of the world, and ought not to be conformed to it; yet, being in it, we are under various obligations to those about us. As husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, &c. we capnot be insensible that others have a claim upon us, as well as we upon them; and it is the same as members of a community united under one civil government. If we were rulers, our country would have a serious claim upon us as rulers; and as we are subjects, it has a serious claim upon us as subjects. The manner in which we discharge these relative duties contributes not a little to the formation of our character, both in the sight of God and man.

The directions given to the Jewish captives were comprised in two things ; seeking the peace of the city, and praying to the Lord for it. These directions are very comprehensive; and apply to us, as we have seen, much more forcibly than they did to the people to whom they were immediately addressed. Let us inquire, more particularly, what is included in them.

Seek the peace of the city. The term here rendered peace, (ov) signifies, not merely an exemption from wars and insurrections, but prosperity in general. It amounts, therefore, to saying, Seek the good, or welfare of the city. Such, brethren, is the conduct required of us, as men and as Christians. We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.

To prevent mistakes, however, it is proper to observe, that the patriotism required of us, is not that love of our country which olashes with universal benevolence, or which seeks its prosperity at the expense of the general happiness of mankind. Such was

[ocr errors]


the patriotism of Greece and Rome; and such is that of all others, where Christian principle is not allowed to direct it. Such, I am ashamed to say, is that with which some have advocated the cause of negro slavery. It is necessary, forsooth, to the wealth of this country! No: if my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of maokind, let it be un. prosperous ! But this is not the case. Righteousness will be found to exalt a nation, and so to be true wisdom. The

prosperity which we are directed to seek in behalf of our country involves no ill to any ope, except to those who shall attempt its overthrow. Let those who fear not God, nor regard man, engage in schemes of aggrandizement, and let sordid parasites pray for their success. Our concern is to cultivate that patriotism which harmonizes with good will to men. Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults, I will seek thy good ; not only as a Briton, but as a Christian : for my brethren and companions' sakes, I will sayPeace be within thee ; because of the house of the Lord my God, I will seek thy good!

If we seek the good of our country, we shall certainly do nothing, and join in nothing, that tends to disturb its peace, or hinder its welfare. Whoever engages in plots and conspiracies to over, turn its constitution, we shall not. Whoever deals in inflammatory speeches, or, in any manner, sows the seeds of discontent and disaffection, we shall not.

Whoever labours to depreciate its gov. ernors, supreme or subordinate, in a manner tending to bring government itself into contempt, we shall not. Even in cases wherein we may be compelled to disapprove of measures, we shall either be silent, or express our disapprobation with respect, and with segret. A dutiful son may see a fault in a father ; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him. He that can employ his wit in degrading magistrates is not their friend, but their enemy; and he that is an enemy to magistrates is not far from being an enemy to magistracy, and, of course, to his country. A good man may be aggrieved ; and being so, may complain. Paul did so, at Philippi. But the character of a complainer belongs only to those who walk after their own lusts,

If we seek the good of our country, we shall do every thing in our parer to promote its welfare. We shall not think it sufficient thaí we do it no harm, or that we stand still as neutrals, in its difficulties. f, indeed, our spirits be tainted with disaffection, we shall be apt to think we do great things by standing aloof from conspiracies, and refraining from inflammatory speecbes; but this is no more than may be accomplished by the greatest traitor in the land, merely as a matter of prudence. It becomes Christians to bear positive good will to their country, and to its government, considered as government, irrespective of the political party which may have the ascendency. We may have our preferences, and that without blame : but they ought never to prevent a cheerful obedience to the laws, a respectful demeanour towards those who frame, and those who execute them, or a ready co-operation in every measure which the being or well being of the nation

may require. The civil power, whatever political party is uppermost, while it maintains the great ends of government, ought, at all times, to be able to reckon upon religious people as its cordial friends : and, if such we be, we shall be willing in times of difficulty, to sacrifice private interest to public good; shall contribute of our substance without murmuring ; and, in cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives, in its defence.

As the last of these particulars is a subject which deeply interests as at the present juncture, I shall be excused if I endeavour to establish the grounds on which I conceive its obligation to rest.

We know that the father of the faithful, who was only a sojourner in the land of Canaan, when his kinsman Lot, with his family, were taken captives by a body of plunderers, armed his trained servants, pursued the victors, and bravely recovered the spoil. It was on this occasion that Melchizedek blessed him, say. ing, Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth : and blessed be the most high God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand!

Perhaps it will be said, “This was antecedent to the times of the New Testament: Jesus taught his disciples not to resist evil ; and when Peter drew his sword, he ordered him to put it up again"; saying, All they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.'


You know, my brethren, I have always deprecated war, as one of the greatest calamities : but it it does not follow, form hence, that it is, in all cases, unlawful. Christianity, I allow, is a religion of peace ; and, whenever it

; universally prevails, in the spirit and power of it, wars will be unknown. But so will every other species of injustice ; yet, while the world is as it is, some kind of resistance to injustice is necesgary, though it may, at some future time, become unnecessary. If our Saviour's command, that we resist not evil. be taken literally and universally, it must have been wrong for Paul to have re. monstrated against the magistrates at Philippi ; and he bimself would not have reproved the person who smote him at the judg. ment-seat.

I allow, that the sword is the last weapon to which we should have recourse. As individuals, it may be lawful, by this instrument, to defend ourselves, or our families, against the attacks of an assassin : but, perhaps, this is the only case in which it is so; and, even there, if it were possible to disarm and confine the par. ty, it were much rather to be chosen, tlian in that manner to take away his life. Christianity does not allow us, in any case, to retaliate from a principle of revenge. In ordinary injuries, it teaches patience and forbearance. If an adversary smite us on the one cheek, we had better turn to him the other also, than go about to avenge our own wrongs.

The laws of honour, as acted upon in high life, are certainly in direct opposition to the laws of Christ ; and various retaliating maxims ordinarily practised among men, will no doubt, be found among the works of the flesh.

And if, as nations, we were to act on Christian principles, we should never engage in war, but in our own defence ; not for that, till every method of avoiding it had been tried in vain.

Once more: It is allowed, that Christians, as such, are not permitted to have recourse to the sword, for the

purpose of defending themselves against persecution for the gospel's sake. No weapon is admissible in this warfare but truth, whatever be the consequence. We may renionstrate, as Paul did at Philippi, and our Lord himself, when unjustly smitten; but it appears to me that this is all. When Peter drev his sword, it was with a desire to

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »