« הקודםהמשך »
the king, who was then Nero, the most cruel of men, and their bitter persecutor. The reason is obvious. The Christians were but a few, and the constitution much older than their new sect, as it was then called. To redress grievances, and reform the state, was the business of the majority, who alone had power to make innovations; and any attempt in the Christians, however just, might have been construed into sedition, and would probably have been productive of more evil than good.
But it would be absurd to argue from thence, as some have done, that the apostle meant to enjoin a continued submission to violence; and that a whole people injured might, in no case, recognize their trampled majesty
The doctrine of non-resistance is now sufficiently exploded; and may it be forever treated with that sovereign contempt, which it deserves among a wise and virtuous people. God gave us freedom as our birth-right; and in his own government of the world he never violates that freedom, nor can those be his vicegerents who do. To say they are, is blaspheming his holy name, and giving the lie to his righteous authority. The love of mankind, and the fear of God, those very principles from which we trace the divine original of just government, would lead us, by all probable means, to resist every tyrant to destruction, who should attempt to enslave the freeborn soul, and oppose the righteous will of God, by defeating the happiness of man!
This, however, is to be a last resource; and none but the majority of a whole people, both in wisdom
and force, can determine in what cases resistance is necessary. In the scriptures, therefore, obedience is rightly inculcated in general terms. For a people may sometimes imagine grievances which they do not feel, but will never miss to feel and complain of them where they really are, unless their minds have been gradually prepared for slavery by absurd tenets.
From what has been said on these heads, I hope you will readily confess—that as soon might the rude chaos, or jarring atoms of certain philosophers, have jumbled into the order of the universe, without the forming hand of the Almighty architect, as men become fit for social happiness without brotherly-love, the fear of God, and regard for just authority.
Suffer me now to apply what has been said, by earnestly charging every one of this audience to a conscientious observance of these cuties; for if there ever was a people, in a more peculiar manner, called to observe them, we who inhabit these colonies are that people. Being yet in our infancy, and surrounded with restless enemies, our strength, our success, and our future glory, depend upon our trust in God, our love and unanimity among ourselves, and obedience to that authority, which is necessary to collect our scattered rays, and pour them, with consuming force, upon the heads of our proud foes.
I shall not, at present, stay to exhort you farther to the first of these duties; Trust in God. It is the business of all our preaching; and the government of this province appeared of late so sensible of our entire dependence for victory upon the Lord of Hosts, that a day of public humiliation, to implore his aid and direction, was enjoined in terms that might do honour to any government. On that occasion, you heard how vain are all the inventions of men, when they seek not counsel of the Most High. You heard how the mighty have fallen, and how weak their boasted strength has been found, when they did not rest upon the living God.
What remains, then, is to charge you, and I am bound to charge you, to a sovereign regard for
your civil constitution, and the just authority of your king. Without this we shall be as a body without a head, our strength uncollected, and ourselves an easy prey to every invader. And surely, if it be a duty in all cases for subjects to honour a king, vested with legal authority, and to support him in defence of that constitution they have chosen to be governed by, how much more must this be a duty to the best of kings, and best of constitutions! A king who is the father of his people, and the first friend of liberty! A con stitution which is founded on common consent, common reason, and common utility; in which the governing powers so admirably controul, and are controuled by, each other, that it has all the advantages of all the simple forms, with as few of their inconveniencies as can be expected amidst the imperfections of things human.
In a discourse calculated to render our benevolence as diffusive as light or air, it would ill become me to run into invectives, even against our worst enemies. But can we look round this great globe, and see such an immense majority of our species crouching under the galling yoke of a few human monsters; unmanned, sunk in misery and baseness, their spirits broke, and a settled gloom in their countenances; can we see this, and not adore that liberty which exalts human nature, and is productive of every moral excellence? Can we mark the desolating progress of slavery, or behold her gigantic approaches even towards ourselves, and not be alarmed and enAlamed? and not feel the spirit of the free stirring within us?
To dream of accommodations with a perfidious nation, by leagues or imaginary lines, extended from claim to claim along a champaign country, is the height of folly. So opposite our views, so rooted their hatred, that unless the boundary between us be such as nature has fixed, by means of impassable mountains, seas, or lakes, one continent cannot hold us, till either one side or the other shall become sole master.
Should it be our sad lot to fall under the dominion of such a haughty foe, farewel then, a long farewel, to all the happiness resulting from the exercise of those virtues which I have been recommending, from the text, as the true support of society!
With regard to brotherly-love, how, alas! in such circumstances, should we flourish, or be happy in the exercise of it? What love, what joy, or what conficence can there be, where there is no community; where the will of one is law; where injustice and oppression are liberty; where to be virtuous is a crime; where to be wise and honest are dangerous qualities; and where mistrust, gloom, distraction and misery are the tempers of men?
As to piety, or the fear of God, what rational exercise of devotion could we propose in a religion obtruded upon our consciences! A religion that must give us dark and unfavourable notions of the deity, by making use of his holy name to justify oppres. sion, and sanctify unrighteousness! A religion, in short, that must be abhorred by men of good nature for its many cruelties; by men of virtue for its indul. gences of immorality; and by men of gravity and sound philosophy, for its absurd pageantry, and sad degeneracy from its once pure institution, by the blessed Jesus and his holy apostles!
And lastly, what joy could we look for in honouring the king? A king whose dominion over us would be founded in violence and blood! whose reign would be a standing war against our souls and bodies,against heaven and earth!
Surely the most distant thoughts of these dreadful calamities, would alarm every person who had not drank in the very last dregs of slavish principles. And shall we, whose souls have been taught to exult at the sacred sound of liberty, not be roused, animated and enflamed, by our present danger, to secure a treasure which includes in it almost every human felicity? Things of inferior concern may be adjusted at another season; and those who pretend to the greatest public spirit, should be the first to give a proof of it, by turning their attention to the main chance, at a juncture when our strength and success so evidently depend on unanimity and immediate action. Is this a time for dissensions about matters of trivial moment, when the very vitals of liberty are