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sinners who feel the burden, and fear the consequences of their sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,'* an alarm is raised, and a concern pretended for the interests of morality. The doctrine of salvation by faith only is charged with opening a door, a flood-gate, for licentiousuess; and it is supposed, that if this doctrine be true, people may live as they please, and still comfort themselves with the expectation of heaven at last. Considering our natural propensity to trust in ourselves that we are righteous, I do not wonder that persons who are, comparatively, sober and decent, should speak thus, while they are ignorant of the strictness of the holy law of God, and of the depravity of their own hearts. But I sometimes wonder that they are not a little disconcerted, by the characters of many, (so different from what they suppose their own to be,) who join with them in the objections they make. For in this point, with the sober and decent, the licentious and profligate readily concur; and whoremongers, adulterers, drunkards, and profane swearers, almost equal them in gravely expressing their apprehensions that the doctrine of salvation by grace will prove very unfavourable to the practice of good works. How very remarkable is this-that the virtuous and the vile, the most respectable and the most infamous people, should so frequently agree in sentiment, and unite in opposing the Gospel professedly from the same motive. But thus it was at the commencement of MESSIAH's kingdom kings, rulers, priests, and people, all conspired and raged against him. Herod and Pilate, the Jewish elders and the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees and the Sadducees thus differed, and thus agreed. They hated each other till he appeared; but their greater common hatred to him made them act in concert, and they suspended their mutual animosity, that they might combine to destroy him.
I may seem to have digressed from the immediate scope of my text; but I judged it proper to bring the subject home to ourselves. If I confined myself to prove that the enemies of our Lord, when he was upon earth, were very unreasonable and unjust in treating him as they did, I should have an easy task, and, I suppose, the ready assent of all my hearers. But there may be persons present, who, though they little suspect themselves, are equally misled by prejudices; and, under a semblance of zeal for a form of godliness, oppose the truth and power of it-upon the same principles, and in the same spirit, as the Jews and Heathens did of old. The Jews who condemned MESSIAH to death, blamed their forefathers for persecuting the prophets who foretold his
* Acts, xvi. 31.
appearance ;* but their own conduct towards him was a proof that, had they lived in the days of the prophets, they would have acted as their fathers had done. So the resentment that many, who bear the Christian name in this day, discover against the doctrines of the Gospel, and against the people who profess them, is proof that they would have concurred with those who crucified the Lord of glory, had they lived in Jerusalem at that time.
In this prophecy, David, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, speaks of the future as actually present. He saw the resistance that would be made to the person and kingdom of MESSIAH by the powers of the world; that they would employ their force and policy to withstand and suppress the decree and appointment of God. The question, Why?' implies that their opposition would be both groundless and ineffectual.
1. It was entirely groundless and unreasonable. MESSIAH was indeed a king, and he came to set up a kingdon that should endure for ever. But his kingdom is not of this world; and, if rightly understood, would give no umbrage to human governments. It does not interfere with the rights of princes. His subjects are, indeed, primarily bound by the laws of their immediate King, and they must obey God rather than man,'t if a man will presume to enjoin such laws as contradict his known will. But with this exception, it is part of the duty they owe to their Lord, to obey those whom he has placed, by his providence, in authority over them. The kingdom of Messiah has little to do with what we call politics. His people are taught to render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,' and to yield a peaceful subjecttion to the powers that be, under whatever form of government their lot may be cast. They are strangers and pilgrims upon earth,' their citizenship, treasures, and conversation, are in heaven; and they have no more direct concern with the intrigues and parties of politicians, than a traveller has in the feuds and disturbances which may happen in a foreign country through which he is passing. They are to obey God, they are to obey ⚫ kings and governors in subordination to God, they are to render to all their due; tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom, honour to whom honour.' But where they cannot comply with the laws of government without breaking the laws of God, then they are not to obey, but to suffer patiently, committing their cause to him whom they serve; well knowing that he is able to protect or relieve them, so far as his wisdom judges it fit, and to make them abundant amends for all they can suffer for his sake.
*Matth. xxiii. 30, 31. † Acts, v. 29.
Matth. xxii. 21. § 1 Pet. ii. 11.
I am not a direct advocate for the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance in the largest sense. I set a great value upon the blessings of civil and religious liberty; I reverence the constitutional rights of nations, particularly of our own. But they are all dependent upon the will of our Lord; and I know not by what means they can be preserved to a people, when their sins have made them ripe for judgment. But let the dead bury their dead.'* God will never want instruments, when it is his pleasure to relieve the oppressed, or to abase the proud. For these purposes he overrules the counsels and affairs of men, pours contempt upon the designs of princes, and takes the wise in their own craftiness. The subjects of his spiritual kingdom have only to commit their cause to him, to wait upon him, to observe and to admire his management. Their best interest is always safe. And even the troubles they meet with are appointed for their good. But if they so far conform to the world as to take an active and decided part in the disputes and contentions around them, they usually dishonour their Christian character, and obstruct their own peace and comfort. There may possible be some exceptions. God may sometimes place a servant of his, by the leading of his providence, in a post of high political importance, as he did Joseph and Daniel; but I believe such instances are few; and if any venture of their own accord beyond the proper line of their calling as Christians, the event is usually grief and loss to them. They are described in his word as those who are quiet in the land,' and such should be their deport
We are sure it was thus, in the first and golden days of Christianity. The Roman government was then absolute, arbitrary, and oppressive. Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, and others, who presided over it, and bore the name of Roman emperors, were beyond measure vile and abominable: one of them was, by a decree of the Roman senate, sentenced to death as a public enemy to mankind-but the Christians neither disputed their right, nor disobeyed their authority. Kings and rulers, therefore, have nothing to fear from the Gospel of Christ. The maxims of sound policy would engage all their influence in facilitating its progress; for true Christians will assuredly be good subjects. Impatience of subordination, contempt of lawful authority, tumults, riots, and conspiracies, are evils which would have no place if the Gospel was generally received. But princes have been usually opposed to the flattery of designing men, who by their arts and misrepresentations, have seduced them to act contrary to their true in
terests. Their mistaken efforts to suppress that cause, which, if maintained, would have been the best security of their thrones, have often stained the annals of their reign with innocent blood, and filled their dominions with misery. History furnishes many instances of kings, who might otherwise have lived beloved and died lamented, that have involved themselves and their families in the calamities with which they unjustly punished those who deserved their protection. For,
2. Opposition to MESSIAH and his kingdom is no less vain and ineffectual, than unreasonable and groundless. Nor is it vain only, but ruinous to those who engage in it. What did the Jews build when they rejected the foundation-stone which God had laid in Zion? They acted, as they thought, with precaution and foresight. They said, 'If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation."* Foolish politicians! Did they preserve their city by crucifying the Son of God? The very evil they feared came upon them; or rather, being abandoned of God to their own counsels, they brought it upon themselves. In a few years the Romans, with whom they appeared so desirous to keep upon good terms, destroyed their city with an unheard-of destruction, and exterminated them from the land. This was an emblem of the inevitable, total, irreparable ruin which awaits all those who persist in rejecting the rule of MESSIAH. The nation, the individual, that will not serve him, must surely perish.
Ah! if sinners did but know what the bonds and cords are which they are so determined to break; if they knew that his service is perfect freedom;' if they were aware what more dreadful bonds and chains they are rivetting upon themselves, by refusing his easy yoke, they would throw down their arms and submit. They think, if they yield to the Gospel, they must bid adieu to pleasure. But what will become of their pleasure when, the day of his forbearance being expired, he will speak to them in his wrath, and fill them with hopeless horror and dismay.
Bless the Lord, ye favoured few, whose eyes are opened, whose hearts are softened, and who are become the willing people of this Saviour. Yet a little while and he will appear again, and then you also shall appear with him in glory!
* John, xi. 48.
OPPOSITION TO MESSIAH IN VAIN.
PSALM ii. 4.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in de rision.
THE extent and efficacy of the depravity of mankind cannot be fully estimated by the conduct of Heathens destitute of the divine revelation. We may say of the Gospel, in one sense, what the apostle says of the law, ' It entered that sin might abound.'* It afforded occasion for displaying the alienation of the heart of man from the blessed God in the strongest light. The sensuality, oppression, and idolatry which have prevailed in all ages, sufficiently prove the wickedness of men to be very great. But the opposition which they who have rebelled against the government of their Creator make to the proposals of his grace, is a proof still more striking. If sin had so hardened their hearts, and blinded their eyes, that of themselves they neither can nor will implore his mercy; yet it might be thought that if the Great God whom they have so heinously offended, should be pleased, of his own goodness, to make the first overtures of reconciliation, and to invite them to receive pardon, they would gladly attend to his gracious declaration; especially when they are informed that, to preserve them from perishing, he gave up his only Son to sufferings and death. But when they not only defy his power, but insult his goodness; when they reject and blaspheme the Saviour whom he commends to them; when they are but the more exasperated by his tenders of mercy; when they scorn his message, and persecute his messengers by whom he entreats them to be reconciled; this mad and ungrateful carriage shows such a rooted enmity against God in fallen men, as even the fallen angels are not capable of discovering. For MESSIAH 'took not on him the nature of angels,' nor did he make proposals of mercy to them. But he did take upon him our nature. He visited us in person; for us he lived a sufferer, and died that we might live. The prophets foresaw and foretold the reception he would meet
*Rom. v. 20.