Page images

fiesh ? or at his cross on which he bore the sins of men ? or at his holy requirements. Are you not unwilling to see and feel your lost condition, and your absolute dependence on the merits of Christ alone for salvation ?

3d. The unbeliever perishes without excuse. What excuse could a bitten Israelite have, who died because he would not look to the brazen serpent, as God directed ? Would not every one say that he lost his life by his own folly? And will it not be so with the unbeliever? He knew how freely he could be saved. But he rejected the gracious offer. He would not look to Christ and his cross for salvation. How confounding will be the words of the Redeemer from his judgment seat—I called and ye refused. I bade you look to me and live, but ye would not. I would have healed you, but you despised my grace. I would have saved you from your sins, but you would not forsake them. Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire.

4th. This subject suggests the grand means of growing in grace. Looking unto Jesus. Do you feel the need of deeper repentance ? Look to him whom you have pierced by your sins. Do you feel the need of being quickened in the Divine life? Look to Christ who is your life and strength. Do you thirst for more grace, and long to be filled with the fruits of righteousness? Look to him who says, I will give unto him that is athirst, of the water of life freely.

Finally; in view of this subject we may well ask, Why will any perish, when such a remedy is at hand ? Had Moses gone into the tents of the wounded and dying, after the brazen serpent was lifted up, how sharply might he have remonstrated against their conduct in refusing the means of healing and life? And how should your conduct be regarded in neglecting Christ and his cross?

Is the loss of

soul a small evil ? Will you find everlasting punishment a light thing ? Will endless banishment from the tree of life and the blessings of heaven be a trifling affair ? Have you considered these things ? Will it not be well to consider them before you take another step in the downward course? O stop. Turn and look to the cross of Christ. See his bleeding wounds. Think how ready he is to wash away your sins in his own blood—to deliver you from the wrath to come, and give you everlasting life. He says, Come unto me. I will receive you, and be your friend and portion forever. Will you refuse ?. Can you reject this Almighty and compassionate Saviour ?


Stereotyped by F. F. Ripley,

New York.

[blocks in formation]

Rom. xiii. 1–7.--Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power

but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Wilt thou not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shall have praise of the same :For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due ; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear ; honor to whom honor. In this passage, Paul advances the following important principles :

1. That government is instituted by God. It has not its origin in man; and is not to be regarded merely as of human arrangement. It is the appointment of the Ruler of the nations. The necessity of government has not grown out of any conventional arrangements of society ; nor may it be dispensed with by any conventional arrangements. God intends that there should be government and law; and intends to be regarded as having himself instituted civil authority.

2. Submission to government and to law is a duty to God. It is not merely because we have chosen the rulers, or because we have made the laws, or because our interest is involved in the execution of them, but it is because God has made it our duty to obey the laws as an act of submission to him, and as recognizing his authority over nations.

3. Resistance to the laws, except in matters of conscience, is resistance against God, and is a sin against him. It is not merely that property is injured, and life endangered, and the peace of the community disturbed, and rights jeoparded ; but it is that the arrangements of the Supreme Ruler of all are interfered with, and his own government resisted, that constitutes the main evil of a disregard of the laws of civil government.

4. One design of government is to protect the innocent in the exercise of their rights. Rulers are appointed by God for this end. Vol. XII. No. 8.


They are his ministers, acting in his place, and by his authority. Of course, they sin against him if they do not do it. They not only betray the interests of those who clothe them with office, and are recreant to the high trust conferred by men, but they are guilty of disregarding the duty they owe to God, and of unfaithfulness to him.

5. It is also the design of civil government to punish the violaters of the laws. The magistrate bears the sword for this object; and he is bound to restrain and punish wickedness as an act of duty to God. This office is God's only ordinance in this world for this purpose. He has taken away the sword from individuals, who, in a state of nature might execute vengeance, and has given it to the magistrate. And it is now the purpose of God, that punishment shall be administered by the magistrate, and according to the laws, and not by individuals, or by mobs. And it further follows from this, that if the magistrate does not punish offences according to the laws, they are to go unpunished-except as God shall himself punish them in the administrations of his Providence. For he has commissioned no other authority to do this but the civil powers.

These are the vital principles contained in the Bible on the subject of civil government. These principles are to remain the same, and are to guide us in all our discussions on the subject. It may be added here, that the subject was attended with much more difficulty when Paul penned the text than it is now. It was not then merely a general question whether submission should be rendered to the laws, but it was whether submission should be rendered to the corrupt and bloody monarchs who in such rapid succession occupied the throne of the Cesars. Paul wrote this epistle either near the close of the reign of Claudius, or in the time of Nero. And the question which could not but agitate the minds of christians, was not merely whether they should submit to civil government in general, but whether they should submit to the government of such men as “ the dark unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius, and the timid inhuman Domitian."

Yet the great principle was advanced, that, even under the reign of such men, we are to yield submission to the powers that be, and to acknowledge government as the institution of God. In our own land the question is of much more easy solution. Here the laws are what they should be, or may easily be made so by the people themselves. Here no such question agitates the bosom, as whether we shall yield to the arbitrary enactments of such men as Tiberius and Nero ; here there can be no reason for disregarding the laws on the ground that they are unequal and unjust.

But, though the grounds for the discussion of this subject have been changed, the propriety of discussion still remains. Within a few years past a state of things has arisen in our land-to the surprise

of every good and peaceful citizen—which renders it proper to discuss the the subject again in every way in which discussion at all is proper. It is appropriate in the pulpit not as a matter of politics ; not to agitate the public mind by any examination of the subjects which have led to the late extraordinary scenes; but simply with reference to the inquiry, what is the Scripture doctrine on the subject, and in what way shall we as citizens discharge our duty to God in showing our respect to the laws. You will bear me witness that I have not unduly introduced any reference to political matters, or agitating public questions into this place. Nor shall I on this occasion I trust, depart at all from the proprieties of this place and day; and though I must allude to the painful disregard of the laws which has been lately manifested in this land, it will be done simply for the purpose of illustration, and so as not to depart from the course which is appropriate to the pulpit on subjects connected with morals and religion.

The painful events to which I refer, are such as the following: The mobs in the city of New York; the burning of the convent in Charleston, Massachusetts ; the hanging of five men who were gamblers at Vicksburg, without the trial of law; the scourging of Northern citizens in Virginia and Tennessee ; the destruction of property at St. Louis and St. Charles, and the murder at Alton; the burning of MacIntosh at St. Louis ; and the recent outrage and destruction of property in this city. All these have been alike, though on different subjects, and in different parts of our country, in the following respects : namely, that they have occurred without the regular process of law, under highly excited passions, in spite of the police, and in defiance of the laws of the land; that they have been in most instances connected with the question about freedom of discussion, and in all instances have resulted in the violation of either the property, the rights, or the lives of others.

Had but a single instance of disregard to the laws occurred in the land, and had that been met by the prompt, and decided indignation of the whole community, the case would have been little alarming. Or had the excitement occurred only on one subject, or in one section of the nation, there would have been much less in it to demand

public attention. But the reverse of all this has been true. Every i part of the land has been disgraced with such scenes. Disregard to

law and to the rights of property has extended to many subjects, and has been increasing. Attentive observers, also, cannot but have remarked a deplorable change in public opinion among the more respectable classes of the community on the subject. At first, there was but one sentiment, and that was a sentiment of decided indignation against the disregard of the laws. But, unless I err, there is by far less indignation felt and expressed at present. The sentiment is gaining ground, and is advanced, sometimes guardedly, and at others openly, that there are evils in the community which the law cannot

[ocr errors]

punish, and which can be met only by the people taking the law into their own hands. There is a feeling that when there is any thing that is deemed indecorous, or deficient in taste or propriety, it is proper for a mob to suppress it. And when an outrage is committed ; when the police has shown its want of power to restrain, or when the magistracy has connived at the violation of the laws, and at the destruction of property, there is an extensive feeling gaining ground in the community that it is well, now that the outrage is done, that it was done. Respectable citizens condemn it in faint tones, and the press lifts a feeble voice, and the affair is suffered to die away without much effort to bring the offenders to justice. Or if a murder is committed, a jury is unable to convict for it; or if an outrage is committed on person or property, the offenders by common consent are allowed to escape.


you may hear the sentiment advanced—and almost without exciting surprise—that there are things which can be restrained or punished only by a mob; and the growing want of feeling on the subject is one of the most alarming things in our land.

Any one can see that if this sentiment is suffered to advance, the period is not far distant when all our institutions shall be held at the disposal of a mob; and when our judges shall hold their offices, and our ministers preach the gospel, and the affairs of our banks shall be administered, and every thing pertaining to the public welfare shall be conducted at the discretion and under the control of those who set at defiance all law and all restraint.

Under these circumstances, it is important that the whole subject should receive the profound attention of every member of this community who prizes our civil and religious institutions, and who has any regard for the supremacy of the laws. In the further persecution of this subject, therefore, I propose

I. To show the necessity and importance of the supremacy of the laws, or of a government of law; and,

II. The way in which this may be secured.
There are the three following kinds of government among men :

(1.) The will of a single despot, of one absolute sovereign, holding his office either by hereditary title, or by usurpation. His will is law. His caprice is law. His passion is law. Of course, in such a case there can be no security of rights. There can be no permanency in any plans for public improvement. No man has any security of his life, his property, no security that his plans can be consumated. The will of the despot may change in a moment; or the whole affairs of the State may be changed in a moment by the accession of a tyrant of different, yet equally capricious character. The only basis of calculation in regard to any plan of improvement, or any rights of person or property, is the life of the individual despot, or what may be known of his individual character. The reader of history will recall a full illustration of this in the rapid succession

« PreviousContinue »