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men whose principles and conduct are inimical in the extreme to the peace of the community; and, as the government will be sure by one tax or other to raise the requisite sums, so he who fraudulently withholds a part of his quota constrains his more conscientious neighbour to pay it for him: how then does he love him as himself? or do to others as he would they should do to him?
To argue that taxes legally imposed are not due because they are partial and excessive, involves the absurdity before developed; for who does not feel a disposition to object to that tax which bears hard on himself? or who, almost, would adequate to the public emergencies under the most frugal administration, if every one might determine for himself which taxes were equal and proper to be paid, and which were not: On such a plan no government on earth could be conducted : and where shall we draw the line? In fact, when taxes are really partial and oppressive, legal methods may be used to get them reduced, changed, or taken off: but till this can be done, it behoves us to bear the cross with meekness and patience ; to pay them punctually; and to use no fraudulent methods of obtaining relief from our burdens.
IV. It is our indispensable duty to honour our rulers, and to behave with respect and deference towards them. This certainly forbids us to accuse them falsely, to ridicule their real or supposed infirmities, or to endeavour to bring their characters and authority into contempt: nor can it consist
!1 Pet. ii. 17.
even with mentioning their faults or mistakes without necessity, or in order to degrade them in the public opinion. Our sentiments of men and measures are not always in our own power ; but the external expression of them should be restrained or regulated by propriety, and the nature of our relation to them. A dutiful son may greatly disapprove of some things in the conduct of his father: but will he circulate the report in order to expose him ? will he industriously hold him up to contempt, ridicule, and reproach? will he not rather endeavour to conceal, or palliate, his misconduct, or contrast it with his virtues ? And, if this be impracticable, will he not be deeply concerned for his disgrace ?-after the approved conduct of Shem and Japheth, and not after that of undutiful Ham. Such ought to be our conduct towards those whom the providence of God hath placed in authority over us, and whom his word hath commanded us to honour. He hath made no exception to this precept on account of the real or supposed criminality of rulers, for this obvious reason, that no ruler can possibly be found whose conduct would not afford a factious person a handle for obloquy and derision: even as no parent can behave so well but that an undutiful son will find something to object to, or turn to ridicule.
Indeed imagination can scarcely form an idea of worse rulers than those who possessed the authority when these commands were given : yet even in such circumstances, the more holy men are, the less disposed will they be “ to bring against them
1 Gen. ix. 20-23.
a railing accusation ;"! which Michael the archangel would not do even against the devil himself: so that “ speaking evil of dignities, and despising “ dominion,” is contrary to the holiness of angels, the precepts of scripture, the example of Christ, and the practice of the primitive church when groaning under the most cruel persecution. But, if this be so unchristian when rulers are manifestly iniquitous and oppressive, it must be still more inexcusable when their conduct and administration are upon the whole commendable. This accords to scarcely any example in scripture, except that of Korah and his company, and that of the vile antinomians whom Peter and Jude so strenuously opposed. Who would think that his son honoured him, if he allowed his tongue and pen that unbridled license in animadverting on all his actions, which even some“ who seem to be religious” use concerning their civil governors ? Yet the command to honour the king is as express as that to honour father and mother; and as obligatory on every man's conscience.
V. We are expressly required to “pray for kings, “ and for all that are in authority.”2 When this command was given, the civil governors were heathens, tyrants, and persecutors : yet, as the captive Jews were directed to pray for the peace of Babylon, that " in the peace of that city they “ might have peace;” so Christians were instructed to pray for their rulers, that they might lead a quiet
“ and peaceable life, in all'godliness and honesty :" for “ the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord,” and it may be expected that in answer to the prayers of his people he will influence him to adopt salutary
So that a wise regard to the peace of the church and the public welfare, as well as good will to the persons of princes, will always dictate sincere and fervent prayers for blessings, spiritual and temporal, on their persons and families, and for success to all their measures; unless we evidently perceive them to be engaged in unjustifiable and pernicious undertakings; and then, instead of expressing our disapprobation in virulent invectives or bitter complaints, we should earnestly intreat the Lord to withdraw them from their purpose, and to dispose them to hearken 'to more salutary counsels. Indeed, when this duty is conscientiously performed from the heart, it has a powerful tendency to calm our spirits, and to render us averse to turbulent opposition ; and it is by far the most becoming and efficacious weapon of our warfare, though too little made use of.
VI. We are commanded “ to study,” or to be ambitious, “ to be quiet, and to mind our own
business ;" “ to be content with such things as “ we have;" “ to fear God and the king, and not “ to meddle with them that are given to change;" to consider that we have here no continuing city," for the Christian's “ citizenship is in heaven;" that
we are strangers and pilgrims on earth ;” that “ in the world we must have tribulation,” let who will govern it; that we must not love the world,
or any of its idolized possessions, distinctions, or enjoyments ; and that we must “not 'mind high things,” or “ seek them” for ourselves. Indeed every
station has its proper duties, and a man may serve God in almost any one; provided he do not officiously intrude himself into it. “ Saints in Cæsar's household” had employments that differed from those of saints in an obscure village. The Proconsul Paulus had duties to perform of another nature than those of the Apostle Paul. David " served his generation, by the will “ of God," as king of Israel; Daniel as prime minister of the Babylonian, and afterwards of the Persian monarchy; and Nehemiah as governor of Judea. Thus Christians may serve God as senators, magistrates, or ministers of state; or as kings or emperors, if properly called to it.
A prophet may deliver the Lord's message in the plainest language to the proudest monarch; and Paul the prisoner was performing his duty when he caused his wicked judge to tremble by his faithful admonitions.
But surely, if the apostles would not “ leave the “ word of God to serve tables," though a very good work in itself, ministers of the gospel ought not to intermit their important labours to dispute about politics, or to attempt the reformation or subversion of governments, or to unite with heretical, infidel, or irreligious persons, because their sentiments coincide in these secular concerns. They seem to have nothing to do in such questions, but to instruct the people from the word of God in this, as well as other parts of their duty;: