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the least attempting to interfere with the ministers of religion in their work, but entirely leaving, or even calling on them, to do all things " according "to the law," and commandment of JEHOVAH. 1 And therefore Ezra, Nehemiah, and others, not only accepted of their assistance, but solicited it, and blessed God for "putting it into their hearts; nay, prayed to God to give them favour with the king, in their petitions about these matters. 2 But, if the heathen kings had endeavoured to model the religion of Israel according to their own reasoning notions, political purposes, or idolatrous usages; and to prescribe things contrary to the divine law; would such men as these have accepted and availed themselves of this conditional and mischievous support? Would they have prayed for it, or blessed and thanked God for putting such a thing into the king's heart? Would they have thought that the king helped "to beautify the temple," while he was requiring them to pollute it?
Now does not this draw the precise line, in which kingly interposition, in the great concerns of religion, may be desired, prayed for, and thankfully received? So long as "the commandment "of the king and his princes is according to the "word of God," it may be expected that "the "hand of God will be to give the people one "heart to do" that commandment; and that so great and extensive benefits will be vouchsafed by their means, as to excite us to bless the Lord for
'Ezra vii. 14, 18, 23, 25
2 Ezra i. 1-10. ii. 1, 12.
vi. 1-14. vii. 11-28. Neh. i. 11. ii. 4, 18.
"putting such a thing into their hearts." But, if they go beyond this, and attempt to new-model religion, according to their own notions, or in subserviency to their political purposes; to enjoin what is evidently incompatible with the sacred oracles, or to alter their essential truths, ordi nances, and commandments: then all, who re- › semble Ezra and Nehemiah, will stand aloof, and not accept of such unscriptural support. They will think of Jeroboam, Ahaz, and Uzziah; and of Jewish priests, scribes, and rulers, who " made "void the commandment of God by their tradi"tions;" and not of David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah: and this will induce them to decline the proffered aid, or protest against the presumptuous intrusion.
Even when regal, and princely, or senatorial support is connected with appendages which are questionable; and excite a doubt whether the things enjoined beyond the express word of God be not more than mere circumstances; (such as relate to the time or manner of administering sacred services, which, not being expressly mentioned in scripture, must by every religious cómpany be arranged by some direction or agreement;) while some will probably be found too little cautions or suspicious of the object and effect of such interposition, and too eager improvidently to seize on the supposed advantage to the cause; it may also be inferred, that others will be over suspicious and scrupulous, at least in the judgment of their brethren. Now, as far as I have studied the subject, those who favour estab
lishments, and desire the support of rulers and princes in the concerns of religion, have hitherto been too ready to welcome the whole, without due discrimination between what is scriptural and what is not and the opponents of these things, are too prone to reject, or even reprobate altogether as if David were equally to be dreaded with Jeroboam; Hezekiah with Ahaz; or Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes with Nebuchadnezzar, and his golden image, his stern decree and his fiery furnace; or with Antiochus Epiphanes. In opposition to undeniable facts, in the case of the pious kings of Israel and Judah, and even of the heathen princes who favoured the religion of Israel, they assume it as incontrovertible, that regal interposition, or that of senates or nobles, must be connected with political motives and objects; and with coercive or corrupting interference as to liberty of conscience. They assume that every alliance or connexion between those who are the ministers of God in his providence, as rulers, and those who are his ministers in the gospel of Christ, must render the latter in general willing slaves to the interests and passions, or ambitious and arbitrary projects, of the former; and so warp them from an honest regard to truth and duty, and even fetter the remnant of more conscientious persons, and cramp their efforts to do good. Not satisfied with attempting to shew that this hath been the case in many instances both past and present, or attacking this or the other establishment, or hierarchy; they assert that the consequences must necessarily in all instances be the same, and reprobate the very
establishment of Israel.
principle itself. They indeed reason, or declaim, as if it were impossible for God himself to raise up princes, equally pious, and zealous, and attentive to the word of God in all their measures, with Hezekiah and Josiah; or ministers, even under the New Testament, equally mortified to all earthly things, as those were who carried into effect the commands of those pious princes.
It is beyond doubt, from these examples, that it is possible for princes and ministers of religion to combine in measures for promoting the true worship and service of God; for rectifying abuses, and reforming the church from idolatries, superstitions, and corruptions; for administering divine ordinances according to the word of God; and for promoting the general instruction of the people, with a simple aim to glorify God and do good to man; and without any selfish political objects; and even without interfering with true liberty of conscience, or using coercion or worldly lures, in accomplishing their objects. And that which, by the grace of God, hath been done, may, by the same grace, again be done; and to a far larger extent, with more permanent effect, and more glorious and happy consequences. "The thing "that hath been is the thing that shall be;" when all the kings of the nations shall fall down before the exalted Saviour, and become his devoted servants, in promoting the cause of truth, holiness, and godliness on earth. For these things we should hope, and pray, and wait: and, while writing this, I have no doubt that, ere long, even they (or others of the same sentiments coming in their place,) who now regard every thing that looks like
royal or imperial favour to the cause of Christ, as springing from some corrupt motive, some deep political selfish design; will be convinced by facts, that the thing, which to them seems "im"possible, is possible with God," and hath certainly begun to be accomplished; and when they will join their brethren in blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for "putting such things into the hearts" of kings and princes. At the era of the Reformation, several of those eminent instruments, whom God raised up to effect that great and most important revolution in the affairs of Europe and of the world, were, itmust be allowed, induced by concurrent circumstaces, to admit of regal and political interference, in the concerns of religion, too far; and to desire or employ the sword of the magistrate in things which are beside or beyond its commission: yet it may be questioned whether many in modern times have not gone into the opposite extreme. I do not mean as to toleration; for, provided the public peace be not endangered, the fullest toleration seems to be entirely scriptural. The only shadow of doubt is, whether direct outward gross idolatry ought to be tolerated. And here I should favour the affirmative, as nothing occurs to the contrary in the New Testament; and the command to punish idolaters was confined to those of Israel, and was a part of their political or judicial law. But the murder, perjury, and other crimes, connected with idolatrous worship, certainly ought not, on any consideration, to be tolerated by rulers professing Christianity.-If some object to the word tolerate: let them remember