« PrécédentContinuer »
laws be such as we approve of or not; and even if they be oppressive, we are in duty bound to submit; and if we seek redress, seek it in a legal way. There is however one exception to this rule, and that is when rulers pass laws, violating the rights of conscience, and requiring us to break the laws of God. In such a case we are not bound to obey. But under pain of the displeasure of God, we are to obey him rather than man. The justness of these observations is evident from the Scriptures. That we are to be obedient even to bad rulers, in every thing that does not require us to break God's commandınents is clear from our text. And it is remarkable that at the time the apostle commanded in the name of God, every christian to be subject to the higher powers, Nero, one of the most capricious and abandoned tyrants that ever disgraced the world, sat upon the throne of the Roman empire. And yet christians were directed under pain of the divine vengeance to submit to his decrees. But when this same tyrant commanded christians to renounce the religion of Jesus, and sacrifice to Heathen idols, this same apostle was one of the first to resist even unto blood, striving against sin ; and to lay down his life rather than comply. Hence it is evident that, except when the rights of conscience are invaded, a man to be a good christian must render obedience to all the laws of his country. In transgressing any law of the land which does not require us to break God's commandments, we sin against him.
Another duty incumbent on a people in civil society is to respect and honour their rulers. This they ought to do on account of the office they bear. And the observance of this respect and honour is important to the good of the community ; for if the persons of rulers are despised, their authority will be trampled on, and of course the miseries which arise from insubordination follow. Besides the Scriptures clearly teach this duty. Peter spake of those who transgressed in this particular as follows: “ The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. But chietly them that despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed: they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord;" 2 Pet.
ii. 9-11. And Jude spake of them as follows: “These filthy dreamers, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities;" Jud. 8. 4. Another duty of the people is cheerfully to pay
the taxes which are levied for the support of government.
government is useful and necessary as has been shown, it must be supported. And this duty also is enjoined in the Scriptures. In the chapter which contains our text we read; “ For this cause pay ye tribute also : for they are God's ministers attending continually on this very thing Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom." And our Saviour directed, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's ;” Mat. xxii. 21. And he himself paid tribute when it was asked of him. 5. Once more it is the duty of the people to pray
for their rulers, and to thank God for good rulers. The duties of those in authority are important and arduous, and divine assistance is necessary to enable them to discharge them aright. They therefore stand much in need of prayer. And civil government, when well administered, is such a great blessing as to claim our special thanksgivings to God for it. Agreeably to these remarks, Paul exhorted Timothy : “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men : for kings and for all that are in authority : that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;" 1 Tim. ii. 1-3.
In the conclusion of this discourse, let those among us who are in authority be exhorted to consider the duties incumbent on them according to the word of God; and their responsibility to God for the faithful discharge of these duties. And let the people be exhorted to consider their duties towards their rulers generally. And wherein any of us find that we have come short, or transgressed, let us be humbled, and ask the divine forgiveness; and let us set ourselves, for conscience sake, faithfully to discharge the duties which arise out of the relation we sustain in civil society.
And in view of this subject, I feel constrained to repeat a remark, made in some former discourses on the relative duties. How excellent is the religion of the Bi.
ble! It exhibits abundant internal evidences of its divine original. It aims at restraining those passions, and diverting from those courses, which naturally lead men to misery; and at directing men in those paths which are calculated to secure their happiness. If mankind were universally actuated by the precepts of the gospel, our world would be comparatively a paradise. Each one would then move in his proper station, and fulfil his part, for the promotion of the glory of God, each other's happiness, and the good of the whole. Surely such a religion must be divine. Let us believe it, embrace it with our whole hearts, and love it; and let our lives be conformed to its precepts.-AMEN.
DUTIES OF MINISTERS AND PEOPLE.
1 THESSALONIANS v. 12, 13.
" And we beseech
brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you ; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.”
We have considered man in domestic and civil society, and seen what are his relative duties in these situations. We come now to consider him as a member of religious or ecclesiastical society, and to point out his duties in this relation. God has been pleased to establish a church in our world. This church is divided into a great many particular societies. For these societies or particular churches, God has appointed that there should be officers. The principal and most important of these officers is the minister. To him are given in Scripture several different names, expressive of the several duties which he. has to perform. He is called minister, because he serves Christ in his church. He is called pastor, because he feeds the flock of Christ with spiritual food. He is call
ed bishop because he has the oversight of the flock. He is termed presbyter or elder, because it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the people. He is called the angel of the church because he is the messenger of God. He is termed ambassador, as he is sent by God to treat with sinners. And he is named steward of the mysteries of God, as he dispenses his grace and ordinances.
From the institution of a church, and the appointment of this officer in the church, arises the relation of minister and people.
The object of the ensuing discourse is to point out the duties of this relation. And
I. The duties of ministers towards the people of their charge. These may be summed up in love, labour, discipline, example, and
prayer. 1. It is the duty of ministers to love their people. They ought to feel a tender love for their souls, and an earnest desire to advance their spiritual interests. This duty is taught, 1 Thes. ii. 7, 8; where the Apostle speaking of himself
, and his fellow ministers, says, “ We were gentle among you even as a nurse cherisheth her children : so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." Thus ought every minister of the gospel to feel towards the people of his charge. This principle in exercise will be the best security, for the faithful discharge of all the duties which he owes to his people. But the want of this principle, while it will render him very criminal in the sight of God, will make his business a drudgery, and will almost certainly lead him to neglect many of his duties. 2. It is the duty of ministers to labour among
people, and diligently perform all those services, which belong to them as ministers of Christ, and pastors of a flock. This duty is taught in our text, “ We beseech you
brethren, to know them which labour among you ; and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.” The labour or work of a minister comprises several particular duties, such as preaching the word, administration of ordinances, visitation of families and particularly of the sick, and catechising of the children and youth of his charge.
It is his duty to preach the word. This is the leading and most important part of his work. The command of our Saviour to his apostles was, “ Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel ;” Mark xvi. 15. And the direction of Paul to Timothy was, “preach the word ;" 2 Tim. iv. 2. Preaching is a minister's leading duty, and he is to preach the word—the revealed word of God. He is to preach the gospel, that is, glad tidings to sinners through Jesus Christ. He ought with Paul, “not to know any thing among” his people in his preaching to them, “save Jesus Christ and him crucified;" 1 Cor. ï. 2. If he would do his people good, every sermon ought to have a bearing on Christ and him crucified, or grow out of this subject.
Ăs to the manner in which he ought to perform this duty. He ought to be diligent. The command is, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;" 2 Tim. iv. 2. A minister ought not to be content with merely preaching as often as may be customary on the Sabbath ; but he ought gladly to embrace opportunities, to preach sometimes on other days, when his other ministerial avocations will permit. He ought to preach plainly, so that he may be easily underderstood by all his hearers. For in almost all congregations many are unlearned, and need great plaipness of speech. “We use” said Paul to the Corinthians, “great plainness of speech;" 2 Cor. iii
. 12. He ought to preach faithfully, making known to his people the whole counsel of God. Ministers are stewards of the mysteries of God,” and “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful;" 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. He ought to preach wisely, adapting his discourses to the state and necessities of his people. Thus Paul exhorted Timothy; “ Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ;" 2 Tim. ii. 15. And he ought to preach zealously, and show that he is in earnest in his work. Thus it is said of Apollos, “being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord :" Acts xviii. 25.
Another important part of a minister's work in which it is his duty to labour among his people is to alminister the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper unto those duly qualified to receive them. Thus when our Lord commissioned his apostles to preach, he also commission