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we may observe from this subject, 2ndly, That no human laws can be pleaded against the commandment of God.
It has been said often, that the Christian religion is part and parcel of the law of the land; and it appears evident, in many instances, that the policy of the state has been founded upon the principles of the Reformation. We cannot, therefore, depart from those principles without departing from the word of God. It is not only vain, but wicked, to oppose the power and authority of men to the power and authority of God. In this respect it has been truly said, men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree a lie; and God will punish every act of injustice, cruelty, and oppression, according to his law. We may observe, 3rdly, This is not a speculative, but a practical, doctrine.
If all those who make a profession of the Christian religion would make it a matter of conscience to reduce this part of their religion to practice, we should see a very different state of things to what we behold at present. We should see the poor, and especially the Christian poor, treated with humanity and kindness—we should see an end to all the various schisms which divide the Christian world, and all those jarring and discordant divisions which now prevail—and we should all agree to hold the faith in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
THE RIGHTEOUS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE WICKED.
Proverbs xxix. 7.
The Righteous Considereth The Cause Of The Poor; But The Wicked Reoardeth Not To
It is the great excellence and perfection of the sacred Scriptures that they contain precepts and rules for every condition of life. The rich, as well as the poor, may both learn their duty and the danger of neglecting it. They represent the righteous Governor of the world as no respecter of persons, and as doing right to all mankind. According as men obey his law and imitate his goodness, they may be called righteous; and according as they refuse to hear his voice and reject his word, they are unrighteous or wicked. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of the wisest and the truest aphorisms written for the instruction and admonition of mankind. It is a book which will well repay our attention and study, and which will teach us much worldly, as well as heavenly wisdom. Since we have the poor always with us, it is right to know, and to do, our duty towards them; and according as we discharge or neglect this duty towards them, the wise and inspired writer in the words of the text declares, that we are either righteous or wicked— The righteous considereth the cause of the poor; but the wicked regardeth not to know it.
It is a subject of great importance, therefore, to know this duty; and as the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, are so clear and explicit on the subject, it will not be difficult to obtain a right understanding of the duty. I purpose, on the present occasion, to call your attention to some of the most plain and positive doctrines of the Bible, as they relate to this part of the law of God. Without entering into any doubtful or extreme opinions on the subject, I shall lay before you some of the clearest passages of Holy Writ relating to it. In the Book of Deuteronomy, which contains the spirit of the moral law, and which our Lord and his apostles have frequently referred to, as still of moral obligation, we find it written and commanded expressly, If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shall surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.* It is only necessary to consider this divine precept in a spiritual sense, instead of the strictly legal or literal sense, to be convinced that it forms a part of that moral law which from its very nature is unchangeable and eternal. The Jews were a wise and understanding people, and their civil policy may serve as a model for all nations. It was a system of divine origin and authority, as delivered by their great Lawgiver, and had a very particular reference to the poor. We find the same charitable precepts in the Book of Leviticus as in the Book of Deuteronomy; and, in truth, charity and benevolence were incorporated in their religion. And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. And if thy brotJier that dwelleth with thee be waxe?i poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant: but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be * Deut. xv. 7—11.
with thee, and shall serve tliee unto the year of jubilee.* When the captivity and deliverance of the ancient church were predicted to Abraham, the divine declaration was, That nation whom they shall serve will I judge; and the fulfilment of this awful threatening is witnessed by the remonstrance of the servants of Pharaoh, Kno-west thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed? But the divine judgments were also denounced upon the king; and .the word of the Lord addressed to Moses is, Now shall thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. And again, I trill be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host. We find it recorded in the Book of Exodus, that the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made litem serve, was with rigour. And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.-f If we deny the government of God as a just and righteous Governor of the world, we deny the truth and the authority of his word, and become worse than Deists—we are practical Atheists. But the sacred history rests upon too solid a foundation to be shaken by the wind of infidelity and false assertion. We pass on to the Book of Job, who was a holy and righteous * Levit. xxv. 35, 39, 40. f Exod. i. 13,14 ; ii. 23—25.