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To prevent this, it should be considered, that no one man on earth can claim the obedience of others by any natural right of his own, but as he is invested with authority and power from God, who has ordained fome to govern, and for that end to make righteous laws; and others to obey, and this on pain of his great displeasure.
If this were considered as it should be, those in authority would always govern with truth and justice; and fuch whose duty it is to obey, would obey for conscience fake.
It was a powerful argument which Jofeph, then governor of all Egypt, made use of to his brethren, who, not knowing him, were in the utmost fear for their lives and liberty: This do, says he, and live; for I fear God. That is, you may expect nothing but justice from one who professes to live in the fear of God. And what a powerful influence will this naturally have upon those who seek for justice?
When a man is secure of the magistrate's integrity, and that he shall not suffer in his rights, either by partiality, corruption, or the overbearing power of others, he will depend upon the justice of his cause, without employing men of no conscience to puzzle or mislead the magistrate with false assertions, suspected evidences, and doubtful precedents not warranted by law or justice.
And here I cannot but mention a passage which we have recorded in scripture, to the
? Gen. xlii. 18.
praise of the greatest prince then on earth, as we find it in Esther i. 15; the king asks this question of his counsellors, What shall we do unto the queen according to law?--How careful was this mighty prince to do nothing which the law would not justify; and set a rare example of justice to all about him, to make the law the rule of his conscience, and conscience the rule of his conduct! ,
Thus stands the duty of superiors with respect to their inferiors.
But there is another branch of duty, and a very important one, which, in a more especial manner, regards the honour and laws of God, as we before hinted.
The will of God is, that the laws which he has given for setting forth his own glory, and for the good of mankind, should be reverenced and obeyed by all; that fin be made uneasy to those upon whom reason and the fear of God have no effect; that wickedness of every kind be punished according to the nature of the offence; that the evil examples of such as fcorn to be hypocrites in impiety, who make a mock of fin and damnation, and glory in making profelytes to Satan; that such be hindered by the feverest penalties from corrupting others: that growing vices be carefully observed, and a timely stop put to them, before they become too many or too strong to be cured by any methods, except national judgments.
These are the undoubted duties of the Civil Magistrate, who, being in the place of God, stands bound to make his will the rule of his actions, remembering the account he must one day give.
For our part, we are in duty bound to keep awake the consciences of men with the remembrance of God's glorious attributes, and of a judgment to come; of his all-seeing eye; of his justice and vengeance upon hardened sinners; of his power to destroy both body and soul in hell; of the sad and certain consequence of dishonest gain; of the wasting vices of idleness and luxury; of the damning sin of blaspheming the name of the great God; of the great evil of vexatious controversies, and giving men trouble without cause; and lastly, of the absolute necessity of making restitution for injuries done our neighbour, to the best of our power, as ever we hope for salvation.
To conclude:-Let these things be confidered as they should be, and we shall foon fee the happy effects of taking God along with us, in all our actions and councils.
They that are in a superior rank will remember, that they are in the place of God, and will be careful not to bring contempt on him whose place they supply; the fear and regard for God and his laws being the best support of their own authority.
On the other side; they that are to obey will consider, that their superiors are in the place of God, and are bound to consult his glory; their obedience, therefore, will be more cheerful, their behaviour peaceable; and thankful will they be for the blessing of such a government.
And may God, the great governor of the world, give all his substitutes grace and a spirit to discern what will be molt for his glory, and such as he will approve of at the great day; through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory. Amen.