Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

shown to deserve well this divine protection ; and that if the state may rejoice in the care taken of it by its monarch, the church has an equal right to boast of her regard. Her excellent conduct considered, when the prospect of the church was dark and gloomy; when some who wore its honors, forsook its cause; when others silently lamented its condition, and the fears of popery surrounded it.

Transition to the glories and triumphs of the queen's reign; her piety and compassion towards her conquered foes; and the noble end of her great victories in peace restored to harassed nations. Exhortation to her subjects to complete her happiness by uniting in love and mutual confidence, and by burying in oblivion those animosities which threaten the peace of our Israel. Allusion to the queen's sickness, and to the general grief which pervaded the nation on that account. Praise to God for dispelling those fears. Her desire of life arising from a love of her country: her concern for the good of posterity shown by providing for the future peace and happiness of these kingdoms, in the settlement of the crown on the ILLUSTRIOUS HOUSE OF HANOVER : a blessing for which the nation can never be sufficiently thankful. Concluding remarks.

DISCOURSE IV.

Preached before the House of Commons at St. Margaret's,

Westminster, March 8, 1714, being the anniversary of Queen Anne's accession to the throne.

II SAMUEL, CHAP. XXIII.–VERSES 3. 4.

The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that

ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God : and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.

The words read to you are said to be the last of David, and uttered by the Spirit of the Lord, whose word' was in his tongue.' They are by some Jewish interpreters referred to the days of the Messiah, as foretelling the righteousness and increase of his kingdom for evermore: but in this sense they can no otherwise relate to the Messiah than as they are pointed at him through David, who was a type of that great Prince of peace and of righteousness; and consequently, in their natural and literal sense, they regard the temporal government of David, and stand as a fit instruction for the princes of the earth.

There is likewise some doubt of the time when these words were first spoken; whether this admonition and promise were given David on his first entrance on his kingdom, as a sure direction to guide him through the difficulties of empire, and by him delivered as his last words, and the best legacy which he could bequeath, to those who were to succeed him in the throne of Israel ; or whether they were first conceived and uttered by David in the last scene of his life, and left with the authority of a dying father to his sons, as containing the true secret of governing happily ; which he had learned both from long experience and from the influence of the Spirit of God. But in whichsoever of these views we consider the text, it comes to the same thing; and we have the true art of governing, by which a prince may render himself and his people happy, described to us by the wisdom of the divine Spirit, ' He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of the Lord.'

It is a happiness that we may justly glory in, that these words are a proper theme for this day, the subject of which is the accession of our prince to the throne. Such a description of the ruler's duty, produced on the like occasion, would in many places be esteemed a reproach to the prince; and could yield no fruit to the people, but a sense of their misfortune. Unhappy countries! where even such Scriptures have the sound of treason; but with us, the brighter light they are placed in, the more honor they reflect on the throne, the greater comfort and consolation on the people: for though the merit of good government be the prince's proper praise, yet the benefit of it is universal, and reaches even the meanest of his subjects.

The prosperity of a prince who rules in the fear of the Lord, is represented to us in the latter part of the text under very beautiful similitudes : “He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds.' The sun is the great spirit of the world, in the light of which all things are made to rejoice; perpetual spring attends his course ; all things revive at his approach, and put on a new face of youth and beauty : winter and frost lag behind him; nature grows deformed, and the world sickens at his departure. What the sun is to the world, the same is a good prince to his people: he is the life and soul of the public; his influence produces beauty, order, and regularity, and so animates every member, that the whole society is harmony and peace. This difference there is; the sun in his meridian glory strikes some parts with too fierce a fire, and the field fades under the heat which should refresh it: but the just prince, like the rising sun in a clear morning, shines with kinder rays, and his justice, being always tempered with love and mercy, can never be destructive.

As this similitude sets before us the blessings derived from a just prince to his people, so does the next represent to us the stability of kingdoms so happily directed. That government is always in its youth and vigor that is under the management of a wise ruler; its inward constitution is healthful, and so confirmed in strength, that it stands secure from outward dangers : • He shall be as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.' There cannot be a more lively image of a florishing condition than what is conveyed to us in these words. The grass which is forced by the heat of the sun, before the ground is well prepared by rains, is weak and languid, and of a faint complexion : but when clear shining' succeeds the gentle showers of spring, the field puts forth its best strength, and is more beautifully arrayed · than even Solomon in all his glory.' Such is the splendor, such are the never-fading glories of a kingdom, whose prince ruleth in the fear of the Lord.

The text thus explained leads us to consider,

First, the character of a good prince, expressed in these words, 'He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.'

Secondly, how great a blessing a just prince is to his people; which is represented under the similitudes of the rising sun, and the florishing grass springing out of the earth.

First, then, we are to consider the character of a good prince expressed in these words: He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.'

Justice, in the limited notion of the word, as it signifies a due execution of the law, an equal distribution of rewards and punisbments to the obedient and disobedient, makes but a part of the description of a good governor; that which fills up the character is a more extensive virtue, influencing the whole conduct of a reign, and denotes rather the general habit of virtue than any particular acts that flow from it. What this virtue is may best be understood by comparing it with that which is the true measure of it, the fear of the Lord. And thus the text has taught us to explain the notion, referring us evidently to the fear of the Lord, as to the proper rule and measure of that justice which it requires in a ruler : He that ruleth over men must be just ;' what is meant by just, the following words inform us : Ruling in the fear of God.'

The fear of God is in all cases the beginning of wisdom, as being the true foundation of religion; the principle from which the knowlege of our duty, as well as our obligation to obedience, is in all instances deducible. It is a principle which extends to all the stations and circumstances of human life; and will teach the prince as well how to govern, as the subject how to obey.

Now the fear of the Lord either means a just sense of the attributes of God, or else necessarily supposes it; for fear always follows what is determined by the conception we form of the thing or person feared. If we join to great power great malice, and a settled resolution to do mischief, the object so clothed strikes with terror and confusion, and the result is an abject slavish fear : if we add to unlimited power as great goodness and benovolence, such a being creates in our minds awe and reverence, and replenishes our hearts with filial fear and veneration. To know the difference between the fear of a father and of a tyrant, we must necessarily consult our ideas of both, by which only we can distinguish the passions. To act therefore under the fear of God, is one and the same thing as to be influenced by a just sense of his power, holiness, and other divine perfections; and to rule 'in the fear of the Lord, is so to “govern,' as being always under the sense of his

power

and holiness, as being ever in the presence of him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

It is this sense which will make princes become true fathers of their people : for when they consider that they stand in the place of God, the common father of mankind ; that those who are made subject to their power, are the sons of him who put the reins of government into their hands; they must needs treat their people like their children, as conscious to themselves of executing a father's power; and knowing that they should be injurious to him above them, as well as to those below them, should they use his authority in a way not suitable to his character. Could a prince abuse his authority to the gratifying

« AnteriorContinuar »