The Duty of Honouring the King,
Preached in ST. GEORGEÕS and ST. PAULÕS
On Sunday, January 30, 1780;
Being the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of
King CHARLES I.
By CHARLES INGLIS, D.D.
RECTOR OF TRINITY CHURCH, NEW-YORK.
Printed by HUGH GAINE, at the BIBLE and CROWN,
The INHABITANTS of the CITY of NEW-YORK,
The COMMUNION of the CHURCH of ENGLAND;
The following SERMON
Their affectionate Pastor,
Friend and Servant,
I PETER, II. 17.
Fear God. Honour the King.
SUCH is the concise, nervous and commanding style in which the Apostle inforces those two important Duties. He connects the respectful Honour and Obedience we owe to our Sovereign, with that filial, reverential Fear which is due to our Creator; not only because they are characteristic of a real Christian, and should be inseparable; but because our Welfare, Peace and Happiness, temporal and eternal, depend on the Discharge of them.
IT is worthy of Observation, that these Duties are often joined together in other Passages of sacred Writ, in the Old as well as New-Testament.
THUS Solomon exhorts,----- ÒMy Son, fear thou the Lord and the King, and meddle not with them that are given to change.Ó And he immediately subjoins a weighty Reason for the Exhortation. ÒFor, says he, their Calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the Ruin of them both?Ó
WHEN an Opportunity of speaking on those two Points was occasionally presented to our blessed Saviour, he also joined them togetherÑÑ ÒRender unto C¾sar, says he, the Things which are C¾sarÕs; and unto God, the Things that are GodÕs.Ó
THIS serves to point out the close Connection between those Duties; it also places our Obligation to, ÒHonour the King,Ó in a striking Light, however it may be disregarded by some People. Duties which God hath thus united and joined together, no Man should ever presume to put asunder.
THE tragical Event which we are enjoined by our Church to commemorate this Day, naturally suggests the Consideration of this Subject--------particularly the latter Part of it, honouring the King. A Failure in this Duty did once involve our Nation in all the Horrors of Rebellion and Civil War. To such Lengths did the Phrenzy of Enthusiasm, and Republican Ambition push on the Sons of Rebellion at that Period, that they imbrued their Hands in the Blood of their most Excellent Sovereign; thereby intailing Guilt on our Nation, and staining our History with indelible Infamy.
TO raise a just Abhorrence for such atrocious Crimes----to preserve in our Minds a proper Sense of the Honour due to our Sovereign, by which the Blessings of Harmony and Peace are secured---to deprecate the Divine Displeasure for the Guilt then contracted, and that God would be pleased to avert similar Guilt and Calamities for the future: For these great Purposes, our Church hath wisely and piously set apart this Day, as a Day of public Humiliation and Prayer; and hath appointed the excellent Office, which you have now heard, to be annually used on the Occasion.
EXPERIENCE shews that too much Caution cannot be used in guarding against such Evils. The Wisdom of Man perhaps could not devise any Thing more effectual to prevent them, than the Institution I have mentioned. If notwithstanding, a Rebellion of the same Kind now afflicts this Country, we should not infer that this Institution is useless, or should be laid aside; but just the Reverse. We should be the more punctual in observing it; as this hath a Tendency to counteract the Spirit which produces such Disasters; and, certain it is, that the Despisers, not the conscientious Observers of this Institution, were the Authors of our present Calamities.
NOTWITHSTANDING the Care that is taken to inculcate the Principles of Virtue and Religion among Mankind, yet much Vice and Impiety prevail in the World. Would not these be still more prevalent, were that Care to be relaxed, or thrown aside?
TO fear God, is one of the first and greatest Duties of his rational Creatures. This Fear arises from a just Conception of His Being, Attributes, Perfections and Presence. It is mingled with Love, and resembles the Fear of a dutiful Child towards a tender Father. It is the Beginning of Wisdom; and when habitually fixed in the Soul, is the Foundation of true Religion------the Parent of every Virtue.
TO honour the King, is another Duty of great Consequence, connected with, and flowing from, the former. Permit me, as this Day requires, to enlarge upon the latter---to explain briefly what is implied in the Precept---- ÒHonour the King;Ó and then to shew the Reasons on which the Discharge of this Duty is founded. There are few who will not acknowledge that the Consideration of this Subject is proper in these unhappy Times.
I. ST. PETER wrote this Epistle from Rome. He addressed it to all those who were converted to Christianity, and dispersed through the several Asiatic Provinces mentioned in the Beginning of the Epistle.
THE fatal Period was now approaching, when the Jewish Nation, abandoned by Heaven, were to feel the heavy Judgments that had been denounced against them by the Son of God, whom they crucified. They were cast off, and no longer the peculiar People of God. Their general Conduct raised the Aversion of Mankind against them. They were persecuting and uncharitable towards others; whilst rent by the bitterest Animosities among themselves. They were seditious also, frequently raising Insurrections, dissolving the Obligations between the Prince and the Subject, and making Religion the Cloak of Disloyalty.
HITHERTO, Christians were considered by the Gentiles as only a Sect of the Jews; and the Crimes of the latter were, through Ignorance or Malice, imputed to the former. Hence there was a Necessity, that the Apostle should exhort Christians to distinguish themselves by those Virtues which were opposite to the Vices so frequently practiced by the Jews---to convince the World that they were different People, guided by different Principles; that so their Lives might bear the strictest Scrutiny, and turn the Detraction of their Enemies into Praise.
THIS will serve to explain the Verses immediately preceding my Text, which are highly deserving our Attention. ÒDearly beloved, says the Apostle, I beseech you as Strangers and Pilgrims, abstain from fleshly Lusts, which war against the Soul, having your Conversation honest among the Gentiles: That whereas they speak against you as evil Doers, they may by your good Works which they shall behold, glorify God in the Day of Visitation. Submit yourselves to the Ordinance of Man, for the LordÕs Sake, whether it be to the King as Supreme, or unto Governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the Punishment of evil Doers, and for the Praise of them that do well. For so is the Will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to Silence the Ignorance of foolish Men. As free, and not using your Liberty for a Cloak of Maliciousness, but as the Servants of God. Honour all Men; love the Brotherhood: Fear God. Honour the King.Ó
HERE, Purity of Life, Charity, mutual Love and Submission to Government, Òfor the LordÕs Sake,Ó being the express ÒWill of God,Ó are earnestly urged by the Apostle; just as they are elsewhere urged by ST. PAUL, for similar Reasons. By these, Christians were to distinguish themselves from others, and manifest the native Excellence and Spirit of their Religion. The Honour of Christ, and the Success of his Gospel, depended on its Professors observing this Line of Conduct----I may affirm, that they also greatly depend on it even now.
NERO was Emperor of Rome when St. Peter wrote this Catholic Epistle; and notwithstanding the vicious Character of that Prince, he delivers the Precept in my Text--- Òhonour the King.Ó This was to be a general Rule for all Christians. The personal Character of the Magistrate was not to interfere with the Civil Duty of the Subject: Even when bad, it did not dissolve the Obligation of the latter---were the contrary principle admitted, it must necessarily and daily fill the World with Confusion and Disorder. The Christian therefore, is here injoined to honour the Person who is vested with legal Authority, and whom the Providence of God hath placed over him.
TO comprehend the Wisdom of this Injunction the better, and explain the Duty before us, it should be considered, that Government is the only Means by which human Happiness can be attained.
ACCORDING to the Disposition of Providence, and the Condition of our Nature, we are born in a State of Society. Without Society, Mankind could not exist---the whole Race must inevitably be extinguished. But Society cannot subsist without Government. It is the Band which unites the Interests of Individuals; it secures to them their respective Rights, and preserves them from Injuries; it is the Source of numberless Blessings, which are interrupted, or wholly vanish, the Moment it is disturbed. In a Word, whatever Portion of Happiness is allotted by Providence to the Children of Men, is attainable only through the Means of Government. And as our benevolent Creator undoubtedly willed the Happiness of his Creatures, he must have willed the Means also without which that Happiness could not be obtained. Hence, Government in general should be resolved into the Divine Will. It is Òthe Ordinance of God, ordained by himÓ to minister to our Good.
GOVERNMENT implies Subordination. Where Government is, there must be some who preside or govern---and others, over whom that presidency is exercised: From the very Nature and Design of Government, it is the Duty of the latter to honour and obey the former. This is also the ÒWill of GodÓ; and hence, the Precept in my Text,--- Òhonour the King.Ó
TO honour the King, is to entertain respectful Sentiments of his Authority and Person---to speak always with Deference of both---to promote the Peace and Stability of his Reign, and pay a chearful Obedience to his Laws---to check, as far as we are able, the Calumnies which Sedition or Malice would propagate to his Disadvantage, to oppose the Proceedings which would disturb or endanger his Authority---and to promote these Sentiments and this Conduct among others.
THIS Duty implies that we should affectionately interest ourselves in whatever concerns the Honour, the Fame and Security of our Sovereign and his Government. These we should assert, and generously defend against all Attempts to injure them; whether those of avowed Enemies---or of such as with equally malignant Designs, though under plausible Pretences, would destroy and subvert them.
OUR fervent Prayers should ascend to the Almighty for the Preservation and Prosperity of our Sovereign. This is expressly enjoined by the Word of God; and is a Part of the Duty we are considering. We should devoutly pray, that He, Òby whom Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice,Ó would bless the King, direct his Counsels, grant him a long and happy Reign, crown his Undertakings with Success, and make him instrumental in promoting the Glory of God, the Interests of true Religion and Virtue, and the Welfare, Safety and Happiness of his People; and finally, that He would confer on him Immortality and Glory in the Life to come.
IF we honour the King, according to the Spirit of my Text, we shall be sincerely disposed, and shall actually exert ourselves, to do each of these.
IT may be proper to observe further, that this Duty is not confined to those who live under any one particular Form of Government: It extends to the Subjects of all regular States, lawfully established. That some Forms of Government are preferable to others, cannot be doubted; yet neither our Saviour, nor his Apostles have decided where that Preference is due. This was foreign to their Design. They interfered not with the Civil Rights of Individuals, nor with the Political Constitution of States; but laid down the general Duty of Subjects, who are to Òrender to C¾sar the Things that are C¾sarÕs,Ó---Òbe subject to the higher Powers,Ó and honour those who are vested with supreme Authority; whether that Authority be lodged in One, in a Few, or in Many.
SUCH is the Nature of the important Duty before us. It would be easy to enlarge on each of those Particulars. But I shall only add, that the Duty here enjoined by the Express Òhonour the King,Ó is in our Language and Law, signified by the Word Allegiance. All the KingÕs Subjects are bound to Allegiance, before, or even without, any Oath for that Purpose. Oaths, Fealty and Homage were only instituted to remind the Subject of his previous Duty, in certain Cases, and insure the better Performance of it. They are no more than Declarations of what was implied before, and of that to which the Subject was indispensibly bound, from the very Nature of Government, and the Reason of Things.
INDEED, if the Oath of Allegiance be broken by violating the Duty to which it obligeth, it aggravates a ManÕs Guilt, by adding Perjury to Treason. ÒBut it does not increase the Civil Obligation to Loyalty; it only strengthens the social Tie by uniting it with that of Religion.Ó This may serve to expose the Delusion of some, who imagine they are under little or no Obligation or Loyalty, or Òto honour the King,Ó because they have not taken the Oath of Allegiance.
II. I now proceed to shew the Reasons on which the Discharge of this Duty is founded.
I. WE have the express Commands of God, of his inspired Prophets and Apostles for discharging this Duty. We should certainly be punctual in the Observation of a Duty which is so often and so earnestly enjoined by the Authority of Heaven. When it is Òthe Will of God,Ó and required of us for Òthe LordÕs Sake,Ó we should conscientiously practise it.
CAN any Authority be greater than that of the Almighty? Or should any of his Precepts be lightly regarded? Do they not all claim our ready and submissive Obedience? And can any Command be more peremptory or positive than that for honouring the King? How then can any who call themselves Christians disregard this Commandment; or think that Conscience is not concerned in obeying it?
ONE of the sore Evils which for some Time hath infected our Nation, and doth infest it now perhaps more than ever, is, to resolve this, and every other Duty, however sacred, into what is called political Obligation; which Obligation is generally measured by PeopleÕs Feelings, and will readily give Way to the Caprice, Discontent, Ambition, Interest, pride, and other irregular Passions of Individuals.
IF those Men who falsly assert, that all Religion is a State Engine---the Invention of Politicians to keep the Multitude in Subjection and Order---if these should also assert, that the Duty of Loyalty, honouring the King, hangs on the slender Thread of Political Obligation only, and that it is a Matter with which God and Conscience have nothing to do; it need not occasion any Surprize.
BUT that professing Christians, who really believe in a divine Revelation, and acknowledge its Authority---that these would be the Dupes of such Men---that they should make no Conscience of dishonouring their King, and rebelling against him--that they should knowingly trample on the Law of God, and act as if no such Law existed---that instead of obeying this Law, they should be Trumpeters of Sedition and Rebellion: This is astonishing indeed! Did not melancholly Experience convince us of its Truth, we should think it impossible that any who profess Christianity, could pursue a Conduct so diametrically opposite to the Spirit of their Religion!
HOW different was the Conduct of primitive Christians, who exemplified in their Lives the Precepts of their Master; who studied to obey his Will; and whose Innocence, Patience and Fortitude finally triumphed over all the Opposition of Heathen Error and Idolatry! In nothing were they more distinguished than in Submission to their Civil Rulers, and punctual Observation of their Laws, where those Laws did not contradict the express Will of God; as in the Case of sacrificing to Idols, renouncing their Saviour, swearing by D¾mons, by the Genius of C¾sar, and the like.
OUR blessed Lord commanded his Followers to love their Enemies, and pray for their Persecutors--to render to C¾sar the Things that are C¾sarÕs. To clear himself from all Imputation of Sedition, he told Pilate that his ÒKingdom was not of this World.Ó His Kingdom did not interfere with earthly Kingdoms---its Spirit and Design were totally different, and it was to be promoted and administered by other Laws and Measures. His Apostles unanimously inculcated Submission and Obedience to the higher Powers.
THOSE Christians justly considered these Precepts to be equally obligatory with any others in the New Testament; and accordingly, they conformed to them as conscientiously as to any others. To omit other Instances which evince this, hear what Tertullian says on the Subject, in his Apology, which he publickly presented in Behalf of the persecuted Christians, about the Year of our Lord 200-----
ÒWE pray to the eternal, the true and living God for the Life of Emperors; that God, by whom they reign as Kings, and live as Men.---In our Prayers we are ever mindful of all Emperors and Kings; beseeching God that he would vouchsafe them Length of Days, a quiet Reign, a well established Family, gallant Armies, a faithful Senate, an honest People, and a peaceful World; and whatever else either Prince or People can wish for.Ó
ÒYOU who think that we have no Concern for the Life and Safety of C¾sar, look into the Word of God, by which we form our Conduct, and which we do not keep private. There you may know with what abundant Charity we are commanded to love our Enemies, and to pray for our Persecutors, Matth. v. 44. Who are such Persecutors of Christians as the Emperors?----And yet these are the Persons for whom we are expressly and by Name commanded to pray; I exhort that Supplications and Prayer be made for all Men; for Kings, and for all that are in Authority, that we may live peaceable and quiet Lives. I Tim. ii. I.
ÒWE reverence the Providence of God in the Persons of the Emperors, to whom he hath assigned the Government of the World. We know that the Power they have, they have by the Will of God; and we wish well to that which God hath willed to be.
ÒWHENCE were the CassiusÕs, the Nigers and AlbinusÕs? Whence those who set upon C¾sar between the Laurel Groves? Whence those who rushed into the Palace, armed, and murdered Pertinax? These were Romans, if I mistake not, and not one Christian among them. And these Traytors, just before the Perpetration of this Impiety, offered Sacrifice for C¾sarÕs Life, and swore by his Genius, with Religion in their Countenance, and Treason and Murder in their Hearts.
ÒTHE Veneration and Loyalty which are due to Emperors, do not consist in the above mentioned Shews of Duty; which even Rebellion cloaks itself with to pass undiscovered; but in such Virtues as Civil Society finds necessary to be practised sincerely towards Prince and People. In doing Good, we catch at no Applause or Reward from Men; but from God only, who keeps a Register of our Works, and hath abundant Rewards in Store, for this universal Charity; and we have the same good Wishes for Emperors that we have for our nearest Friends. To wish Ill, to do Ill, to speak Ill, or to think Ill of any one, we are equally forbidden without Exception.Ó
SUCH were the Principles and Practice of primitive Christians with Respect to the Duty they owed to Rulers; both are faithfully represented in this Extract, which I have therefore made the longer. They were Strangers to that Sort of Casuistry which dispenses with the Word of God requiring Honour and Subjection to the higher Powers; dissolves the Tie of Civil Obedience, though confirmed by a solemn Oath; releases Conscience from the Obligation of all these, and then absolves from the Guilt of such Crimes, when Subjects, either through Ambition, Prejudice, or other sinister Motives, happen to dislike the Government, or want to overturn it. They persevered in the above Principles and Practice for Ages after TertullianÕs Time, untill a Degeneracy of Manners and Decay of Piety in many, gave Rise to new Maxims and a different Conduct. These Maxims have been improved upon, and frequently reduced to Practice, in these latter Ages; to the unspeakable Injury of States, and Disgrace of our holy Religion.
2. BUT if Men will not regard this Precept from a Principle of Conscience, and because it is the Will of God; yet at least for their own Sake they should do so: For on a due Observation of it, the Stability of Government and the Peace of Societies depend; and in these, it may be affirmed, the Happiness of Individuals is involved. This unquestionably is the Case in our Government, where all are under the Protection of equal Laws; and no Subject can labour under any Grievance for which the Law and Constitution have not provided a Remedy.
TO honour the King therefore, is not only the Duty which God requires and Reason approves; but it is a Duty, by the Discharge of which we contribute to the Happiness of all our Fellow Subjects: For hereby we support the Constitution and Government which secure to them their Happiness.
THE Welfare of Society should be a leading Principle of our Conduct. Reason and Humanity oblige us to wish that Peace should be established, and its Blessings be widely diffused----that Religion, Justice and Righteousness should flourish----that public Prosperity and private Contentment should prevail---that those Benefits which help to sweeten Life, and alievate the Sufferings of this Scene of Tryal, should abound. Who will deny this? Is it not self evident? Can those Blessings and Benefits be otherwise enjoyed than under a regular Government? And does not the Observation of this Precept tend as much to confirm, as the Neglect of it to subvert, regular Government?
WHAT other Security have we for those Benefits; or against Oppression, Injustice, Violence and Wickedness, than that of Government? It is evidently the Ordinance of God---the Remedy which his Providence hath appointed against the numberless Evils of Anarchy. Remove that Barrier, and every Species of Iniquity would rage and reign without Controul. The Weak would fall a Prey to the Strong---the Innocent to the Guilty---the Meek and Humble to the Designing and Ambitious.
BUT Government cannot be carried on so as to avert these Evils, unless those who rule, are honoured and obeyed. The Obedience of Subjects, flowing from a Principle of Conscience, and Honour to the Sovereign, is the active Spring by which Government is moved and exerted. Take away that Spring, and the whole Machine is disordered: it must stand still; and all the Evils of Anarchy and Misrule would ensue.
FOR although the Offence, not honouring the King, may seem to be personal, and directed against the Prince only; yet it rests not there. It virtually extends to the whole Community, and affects every Member of it; not only by insulting each of them in the Person of their Sovereign; but by weakening the Energy of Government, which prepares the Way for all those Disorders to rush in.
3. AND this suggests another Motive or Reason for discharging this Duty; namely, That the greatest Evils which can befall Society, necessarily attend the Neglect or Breach of it. So that if even the Authority of God were set aside in this Case; the Principles of Humanity, Reason and sound Policy would decide in favour of the precept---Òhonour the King.Ó
MORE human Blood hath been shed---greater Miseries and Calamities have been entailed on Mankind---and more audacious Impieties and Enormities of every King have been committed by Means of Sedition and Rebellion, than perhaps through any other Cause whatever.
IF Men once deviate from the obvious Path of their Duty, there is no telling where they will stop. Perhaps they apprehend no great Danger at first, and foresee not all the Consequences of their Procedure. Having subdued the first Struggles of Conscience, it afterwards becomes more pliant; and they are gradually carried on from one Step to another, till they find themselves in a Situation, that is extremely difficult and perilous. Thus have the most aggravated Evils arise from seemingly small Beginnings, which occasioned little Alarm: And this is often the Case of Rebellion---it proceeds mostly from a neglect of the Precept before us, ÒHonour the King.Ó Many consider this Neglect as a very trifling offence; but how pernicious has it frequently proven in its Effects to Mankind!
WHEN disrespectful Sentiments of the Sovereign are entertained, contrary to this Command, it leads to disrespectful and seditious Language; and the Transition is easy and natural from the Language to the Practice of Sedition. He that freely indulges himself in that Language, wants only an Opportunity to realize, and reduce it to Practice.
NOW reflect for a Moment on the horrid Train of Evils which follow Rebellion. The first Stages of its Progress are carried on by Deceit, Violence and Perjury. It is dreadful even in its mildest Effects. It is stained with Blood, and diffuses general Distress and Misery. The Ruin of Millions attend it. All the dark, malevolent Passions of the Soul are roused and exerted; its mild and amiable affections are suppressed; and with them, virtuous Principles are laid prostrate. Hence it is that Civil Wars are always more cruel and barbarous than foreign Wars, and more destructive to Morals; In the former, personal Revenge and Animosity mingle, and kindle up he Soul to tenfold Rage. Reckon over the Benefits which Government confers on Mankind: and the Evil which is contrary to each of these Benefits, is brought on Mankind by Rebellion. Add to all this, that when successful, it generally ends in Tyrrany, and the most grievous Oppression.
EACH of these Particulars was literally verified in the Rebellion, whose Guilt was consummated by the shedding of Royal Blood---by the Martyrdom of King CHARLES I, which we commemorate this Day.
I shall not take up your Time with a minute Detail of the Rise, Progress and Effects of that Rebellion. Suffice it to observe, that it began with the Breach of St. PeterÕs Precept---Òhonour the King.Ó Groundless Suspicions of him were cherished, and the most palpable Falshoods were propagated by designing Men. Hereby the Minds of many were poisoned. Ambition under the usual Mask of Patriotism, and Enthusiasm in the Garb of Religion, blew the Trumpet of Sedition. Open Violence succeeded, and a bloody, ruinous Rebellion was the Consequence. The Nation was weakened, its Property destroyed and dissipated, and the Constitution was wholly subverted. The Sovereign was deliberately murdered---a Sovereign who was not more distinguished by his Sufferings, than by his Fortitude and Probity---by unaffected Piety to God, and Benevolence to Mankind. Of this he gave the highest Testimony that Man is capable of giving---he resisted unto Blood, and laid down his Life, rather than betray the Church of God, or the People, committed to his Care by divine Providence.
WHAT was the Issue of all those Crimes, this Waste of Blood and Treasure?---The most oppressive, absolute Tyrrany, on the Part of the Usurper; and a State of the most abject Slavery, with Respect to the People at large! A State infinitely worse than that which the most inflamed Zealot, the most violent Republican or Enthusiast even pretended to dread before the Rebellion commenced.
NEED I tell you that the unnatural Rebellion which, at this Day, desolates and disgraces America, bears the strongest Resemblance to the former Rebellion? The one is an exact Counterpart of the other---begun on nearly the same Principles, and carried on by the very same Methods.
THE Transactions which led to the present Rebellion are recent, and fresh in your Memory. They originated from those who dishonoured the King, traduced his Government, trampled on his Authority, and imputed to him Designs which had not the least Foundation in Truth. Imaginary Dangers were pretended; the Passions of the Populace were inflamed to a Degree of Phrenzy; and every Engine was employed to carry on the Work of Sedition. These Methods, managed with great Artifice and Zeal, and each Circumstance heightened with the bitterest Aggravations, proved but too successful. The Minds of many were poisoned, and seduced from their Duty; and several well meaning Persons were prevailed on to join in the destructive Measures that were afterwards adopted. Independency, that Foible of weak Minds tinctured with local Pride, in which however the ambitious Leaders sought their own Aggrandisement, though big with certain Ruin to this Country, was declared; and then Rebellion, undisguised and undissembled, flourished over us.
WAS there a happier Country on Earth before that Period, than this? Did it not enjoy all the Advantages of Government without its Burdens? Is there on Earth, this Day, a more wretched Country? Where is that Peace, that Ease, that Affluence, Security and Freedom which formerly resided in, and distinguished America? They are fled. Oppression, Violence and Usurpation prevail in their Stead. Distress and Affliction are universally diffused. The tenderest Ties are rent asunder. Those who should live and love like Brethren, are filled with deadly Animosity against each other: Not only Fellow Subject waring against Fellow Subject; but Brother and Brother, Parent and Child stand up to shed each otherÕs Blood! Thousands have perished by the Sword, and by the Calamities of War---thousands are driven from their once peaceful Abodes, stript of their Property, and exposed to Misery and Want, on Account of their Loyalty. The Land is polluted with innocent Blood---with the Blood of those who, from a Principle of Conscience, adhered to their rightful Sovereign; and rather than renounce Him, or bear Arms against Him, have submitted to Death. Unsatisfied with these accumulated Evils, the Leaders of Rebellion would plunge this devoted Country still deeper in Ruin. They have leagued with the Popish, inveterate Enemies of our Nation, of our Religion and Liberties---delivered this Country into the Hands of a despotic Power---a Power which has extinguished Liberty, and extirpated the Protestant Religion from all its Dominions; and would, doubtless, gladly avail itself of the Opportunity, now offered, to exterminate Both in this Country also---But I turn from the Subject with Horror---my Heart will not permit me to enlarge.
AND are these the Fruits of dishonouring the King? Are these the Benefits that are gained by it? And shall we listen to the popular Declamations that would excite to the Breach of GodÕs Law for the Purpose? O rather let me ever adhere to the Maxims of Inspiration---ÒFear God. Honour the King.Ó
THUS were Matters weighed in the equal Scales of unbyassed Reason and sound Policy--were the Consequences of honouring the King, put into the one Scale, and the Effects of neglecting it, put into the other; it is easy to see which would preponderate, which would have the Advantage. Prudence, Reason and Policy certainly forbid us to run into a greater Evil, that we may avoid a less. A wise Man will deliberately examine Things, not only in themselves, but in their Consequences; and of two Evils, if he is unavoidably obliged to chuse, he will chuse the least. Were we to decide on the Principles of mere worldly Prudence, this would be a much better Test of Obedience to the Precept in my Text, than the Feelings of the People, which hath been absurdly advanced as a Test in this Case by some: Not reflecting that the Feelings of the People, of a great many at least, on such Occasions, will be exactly such as are excited by Ambition, Discontent, false Principles, or the artful Management of designing Men. But when to all these Considerations, the Authority of Heaven is added, to Òhonour the King,Ó it is difficult to account how any one who fears God, or loves his Fellow Creatures, can disregard this Precept.
INSTRUCTED thus, and commanded by the Word of God---warned by the Example of others, and taught by our own Experience, let us firmly resolve, my respected Hearers, to practise this Precept, ÒHonour the King.Ó In doing so, we shall both act agreeably to the Will of Heaven, and promote the Welfare of Society; for such is the Goodness of the Almighty, that in this, as in every other Instance, he hath not only made our Duty compatible with our Interest and Happiness; but he hath inseparably connected them together.
LET us honour the King by faithfully adhering to, and supporting his Government. This is undeniably a Part of our Duty; and by discharging it, we shall adhere to and support the Cause of Truth, of real Liberty, and the Protestant Religion, whilst we manifest that Loyalty which is due to our rightful Sovereign.
UNDER his auspicious Reign, this Country enjoyed Blessings whose Value, like that of Health, was not fully known but by their Loss. At least, they were not sufficiently prized; or else they had not been so wantonly flung away. To be a British Subject, with all its concomitant Advantages, implies more Happiness, more and greater privileges, than to be the Subject of any other State or Prince on Earth. We should be, and I trust we are, sensible of this; should we not therefore now act with a Firmness and Zeal proportioned to the Magnitude of those Objects? Should it not also be our wish, that our deluded Brethren may return to that Duty which they once warmly professed? And share with us again in those Blessings we once sweetly enjoyed in common?
LET us honour the King by cherishing respectful Sentiments concerning him; speaking of him with Affection, with Esteem and Reverence; and by promoting a like Spirit and Conduct in others.
HAPPY for us, that in doing this, we need not deviate from Truth, nor sacrifice Christian Sincerity to political Duty. In this remote Quarter of his Dominions, where his name hath been designedly slandered to serve the Purposes of Rebellion and Revolt, it is become the more necessary to contradict those Slanders, and to declare---That there is not this Day in Christendom a better, a more amiable Sovereign than our present gracious King-----few Countries at any Period have been blessed with such a Sovereign---a King whose Ambition it is to preserve the Rights of his Subjects inviolate, and communicate Happiness to them all without Exception---a King, whose Life is a shining Example of Religion and Virtue, and is a strong Incentive to the Practice of both by others---a King, who is a munificent Patron of Science, and of all those Liberal Arts which embellish and dignify human Life--a King, who unites the private Virtues of the Christian and the Citizen with the more splendid Virtues and Accomplishments of the Monarch; and who, by this bright Assemblage of Virtues, adds Lustre to the Throne he fills!
TO vilify such a Sovereign, and revel against him, how aggravated the Guilt!
I SHALL be the more concise in exhorting you to honour your King, as I am conscious---and it is with the highest Pleasure and Exultation I can testify---that in the worst of Times, and on the most trying Occasions, you, my Fellow Citizens, did honour and faithfully adhere to him.
YOU have been, and I doubt not, ever will be, loyal to your earthly Sovereign. Let me beseech you not to tarnish this Virtue by Disloyalty or Disobedience to the Sovereign of Earth and Heaven---to the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
WHILST you honour the King, fear God also. These Duties should be inseparable. The one naturally rises out of the other. He that has formed just Conceptions of the Deity, will be impressed with filial Reverence and Fear towards him. The Conscience of such a Person will be tender, and shrink at the Thought of violating any of the divine Precepts---especially those which respect the Order established by the Almighty among his rational Creatures; for a Disregard of these cannot fail of dishonouring the Creator, by an Increase of Wickedness; nor of injuring Mankind by destroying the Barriers which Heaven hath fixed to guard their Happiness.
THERE is the greatest Reason that we should fear God; not as an arbitrary Tyrant; but as a just, powerful and wise Governor, whose Laws are founded in Righteousness and Truth; who will support the Dignity of his Laws, by punishing Transgressors; and who is privy, not only to our Actions, but to our most private Thoughts.
HIS innate Purity leads him necessarily to detest Sin. As moral Governor the Universe, placed at the Head of the great intellectual System, it would be utterly inconsistent with that Character, and with all his Attributes, not to check and punish Sin; which might otherwise subvert his Kingdom, and frustrate his Designs.
HENCE the frequent Denunciations in his Word, against sinful Nations; the actual Judgments inflicted on those Nations; nay, their total Overthrow, when they finally abused his Mercy, and the Measure of their Iniquity was full.
THIS Procedure was not confined to that People, whom he chose, and were under a particular Dispensation. There is the clearest Proof of the contrary. The general Rules and Laws of GodÕs Proceedings with the Children of Men, are the same and invariable--invariable as his Nature, and the Relation which Men bear to him; for all are equally his Creatures-----all are equally capable of Virtue or Vice.
THE Jews indeed had a peculiar Law and Dispensation; and by that Law and Dispensation they were judged. The Gentiles were under the Law and Light of Nature, and had traditional Instruction; by that Law, that Light and Instruction they were also judged. The General Rules of the Divine Procedure, as I said before, were the same to both; the Mode of Application only varied according to their different Circumstances.
THUS we find in Fact that many of the most celebrated Heathen Nations, States and Cities which figured in ancient History, are the Subjects of Prophecy. They were liable to the same providential Dispensations with the Jews. Judgments were denounced against their Vices; and those Judgments were inflicted. Consult the Prophecies recorded in the Book of God concerning those Nations; then turn to the History of those Nations, and you will find the Prophecies concerning them exactly verified.
HENCE War, Famine, Pestilence and other Calamities, are expressly called the Judgments of God, to execute his Displeasure against guilty Nations. Obedient to the divine Command, these accordingly rush forth, and visit the Abodes of Sin. They come to chasten and reclaim, if Men will forsake their Sins, and return to their Duty: Or else, to overturn and destroy, if they are impenitent, and refuse to reform.
WHENEVER therefore we see those Judgments abroad, and a People visited with them, which is our Case at present; we may be assured that the Hand of God is there, and that he is calling those People to an Account for their Transgressions. To Òfear GodÓ is the especial Duty of such a People---the Sentiments and Conduct which they should adopt, are pointed out by Hosea---ÒCome, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and will bind us up.Ó
TOO many are diverted from their proper Duty on such Occasions, and fail in making a right Use of those Calamities, by attending only to the secondary and visible Causes of them. They forget the first Spring and Mover, and the Ends for which Calamities are sent. Unfruitful and unwholesome Seasons commonly produce Dearth and Mortality; Ambition, Avarice, Resentment, and the Intrigues of designing Men are the immediate and general Causes of War. In these proximate Causes, People rest, without looking further. They do not consider that Providence always works by such Means, and employs them to effect its Purposes; and that the Calamities thus produced, come not the less from God, because they are brought about through those secondary Means and Causes.
A FEW Instances will elucidate this Point with Respect to the Calamities of War, which concern us most at present.
THE Assyrian, that is Sennacherib, is expressly called Òthe Rod of GodÕs Anger,Ó and was sent against the Jews to chastise them for their Vices, which he accordingly did. Cyrus surprized and took Babylon; Alexander of Macedon overthrew the Persian Monarchy, as was predicted of each; and the Romans reduced Jerusalem, and inflicted those heavy Judgments on the Jews which had been denounced against them by our Saviour.
THE Prophecies concerning those memorable Events undeniably prove that they happened by the Appointment of God: Yet they were brought about by men who knew not the divine Will, and were actuated solely by temporal Motives. What was said of the Assyrian, may be affirmed of each--- ÒHowbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his Heart think so; but it is in his Heart to destroy, and cut off Nations not a few.Ó
THESE were the Scourges of God; they were the Instruments that executed his Purposes; though all Claim to Merit on their Part was precluded, because they were unconscious of those Purposes; it was not in their Heart to accomplish them, nor did they mean so. They were influenced by Ambition, Pride, Cruelty, and a Thirst of Conquest; and accordingly, were liable, in their Turn, to the Stroke of divine Justice for their Transgressions. But hereby the infinite Wisdom and Power of God are conspicuous, in educing Good out of Evil; making the irregular Passions of Men subservient to his Designs, and to the Glory of his Moral Government. Thus not only Idolatrous Heathens, but even Insects and Vermin, nay the very Elements, have been delegated by the God of Heaven, to punish and reclaim his offending People---to carry his threatened Judgments among guilty Nations.
I mention these Things purely to shew, that we should look beyond the immediate Authors of our present Calamities. We should raise our Thoughts to God, own his Hand, and acknowledge the Justice of his Dispensations. We should fear him, as the constant Witness, the righteous Judge of all our Actions---a God of Mercy to those who fear and serve him---a consuming Fire to obstinate Transgressors.
FEAR, when not directed to its proper Object, is indeed a mean Passion. The Almighty is its true Object; and to fear him, is as much our Honour and Wisdom, as it is our Duty. The Fear of God will guard us against the Violation of his Law; it will lead us to Repentance, if we have offended him, and to the conscientious Discharge of each Duty we owe to him and our Fellow Creatures; it will inspire us with Confidence and firm Trust in Him, and be a Shield against all other Fears and Terrors.
THE Almighty has the supream controlled Disposal of all Things. The Actions and Hearts of Men---the Powers of Nature and Events of this World, are entirely in his Hand. He can direct or change, he can repress or accelerate them as seemeth best to his unerring Wisdom.
THE Person who firmly believes this; and in Consequence of that Belief, habitually fears God in his Heart, sincerely serving him, and placing his Confidence in him, will feel Consolation, Hope and Fortitude springing up within him, at the Approach, or under the Pressure of any Calamity. He will not yield to unmanly Fears; but confidently look up to God for Support and Deliverance.
THESE Reflections are very suitable to our present Situation---and we may profit by them. The Times admonish us to examine our Ways, humble ourselves before God, and turn to him with unfeigned Repentance. Proceeding by the same Rules which he hath always observed towards offending Nations, his Judgments are gone forth to visit us for our Abuse of his Mercies, our Barrenness under his Gospel, and the other numberless Transgressions by which we have provoked him.
CONSULT your Conscience, and then tell me---Should we not hearken to the Voice of God, speaking to us in his Judgments, and calling us to Reformation? Can we look for his Favour or Pardon, if we persist in offending him? Or expect his Blessing, if the Cry of our Sins continues to enter his Ears? Would it be right in us to repeat or multiply our Transgressions, when all that is dear to us, or valuable on Earth, is at Stake in the present Contest; and when the Issue of this Contest is suspended on his Will?
IF any Persons among us, by their vicious Lives, dishonour God and provoke him; they are worse Enemies to us than either Rebels, or their Popish Allies. They make the God of Nature our Adversary, who can summon the Powers of Nature, and arm every Element, to work our Destruction, and defeat our Designs. The Efforts and Power of Man may be resisted; but who can resist him that is Almighty?
I TRUST that these Considerations will sink deep in our Minds, and produce suitable Effects. O let us not remain hardened under the chastening Hand of God, nor defeat his gracious Designs to reclaim and save us. Sincerely lamenting our past Sins, which have been committed against the clearest Light, the dearest Love, and the most transcendant Mercy, let us prostrate ourselves before God, implore his Pardon, through the atoning Merits of his blessed Son; and firmly resolve, by his Grace, to amend hereafter, to dear him, and walk devoutly in his Ways.
WE should not rest contented with a cold and barren Assent to these Things; for this could neither be pleasing to God, nor profitable to us. We should actually reduce those Truths, those Resolutions to Practice; and frequently ask ourselves, Whether the Purposes of God have been answered by his Visitation? Whether our evil Habits are weakened or broken---our Sins mortified and forsaken---our Virtues increased and strengthened? Whether are more punctual, more conscientious in the Discharge of our Duty to God and Man? Whether we have advanced in Piety and Probity, under our Afflictions, and are become more humble, holy and resigned? Whether we Òdeny ourselves, take up the Cross daily, and follow our divine MasterÓ with more Ardour? Whether our Hearts be more weaned from the World, from its pleasurable Enjoyments, and criminal Pursuits? Whether we are more sensible of their Insufficiency for our Happiness? And, in fine, whether our Affections are more spiritualized, more disengaged from the fascinating Blandishments of this Life, and centred in God?
QUESTIONS of this Sort, seriously and repeatedly urged, would be very beneficial; and I appeal to your Conscience, whether the Gospel does not require these Particulars of us--------whether each of them is not an especial Duty in our present Situation? Evidently, it is by a religious Regard to these, and other like Christian Duties, and by this only, that we can expect the Almighty will be reconciled to us; that he will remove our Calamities, call back the Sword from destroying, bid Discord cease, and command Peace, with its attending Blessings, to revisit us. To such Amendment, his Promises of Mercy and Deliverance are explicit, numerous and peremptory; and he will be faithful to those Promises. When so many powerful Motives conspire in recommending this Line of Conduct, may I not flatter myself that you will pursue it?
INFLUENCED by those Motives, let us, in the Name of God, and in his Strength, resolutely set about this Conduct: Cheared with the pleasing hope which results from it, when pursued, let us look forward to that happy Period---not very distant now, I trust---when we shall return into the soft Bosom of Peace; when the Remembrance of past Sufferings shall serve to enhance its Value, and inspire us with the more Zeal to praise, and thank, and fear God, and to honour the King; when our misguided Brethren, cured of their Delusion, shall be brought back to their Duty, and partake once more of the Benefits which, hitherto, they have too lightly regarded. Let each of us then, Òput on Bowels of Mercy, Kindness, Meekness, long Suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any Man have a Quarrel against any; even as CHrist forgave youÓ; and let us resolve to imitate the Example of ChristÕs Subjects in that blessed State, foretold by Isaiah, when all Envy shall be extinguished, and brotherly Love shall abound--- ÒEphraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.Ó
THAT each of us may cultivate this divine Temper---that each of us, as a Follower of the meek Jesus, may adorn that Profession, and manifest a deep Sense of our Obligation to imitate, and love, and serve him---that each of us may improve by the Chastisements of Heaven, and rise, purified from the Dross of Sin, more bright and shining out of the Furnace of Affliction---that each of us may attain that Amendment, with all its consequent Blessings, which are designed and aimed at by the Dispensations of our merciful God----May He of his infinite Goodness grant, for the Sake and Merits of his dear Son, Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, three Persons, but one eternal God, be ascribed immortal Praise, Glory, and Dominion, henceforth, for evermore.