תמונות בעמוד

severity as crimes against the civil governors or private men.

And here it must not be passed over in silence, that too many come amongst us, who bring all those evil dispositions and bad qualities along with them, which were the cause of their misfortunes at home.

Now too many of these, instead of enjoying the happiness of a safe and undisturbed retreat and liberty, set up for directors or censurers of our magistrates and constitution both in church and state; ridiculing the religion and discipline established amongst us; meddling with matters they do not understand; and, which is still worse, corrupting our youth with the basest examples of debauchery and profaneness; making a mock of sin; propagating the very vilest opinions; hardening young people against the advice of friends, against their own interest, and the fear of God and damnation.

And a sad truth it is these, many of them, meet with too much countenance and encouragement, for the sake, as is pretended, of the advantages we receive from them.

Whether any advantages of this kind will countervail for the dishonour done to God, the mischiefs done to our people, and the judgments we have to fear, is what should very seriously be considered by all such as wish for the continuance of the happiness of this place.

The express condition of king Solomon's prosperity was this-If thou wilt execute my judgments, then will I perform my word which I spake unto David thy father. And the only

security which the people of God had for their prosperity and God's blessing was this-that put away evil from among you.


From all which it appears, not from our reasoning, but from the infallible Word of God, that the welfare and happiness of nations depend upon the restraint that is put upon vice and impiety, by good and wholesome laws, whereby the honour of God is secured from contempt.

And indeed, wherever God has placed any share of power or authority, it is for this very end, that he may not be provoked, by the dishonour done to him and his laws, to pour down his judgments upon men and nations.

Next to the glory of God, the great end of laws and of civil government is, THE GOOD OF MANKIND; to secure the persons, the properties, and the peace, of honest and well-meaning men, against the power, or the craft, of such as would invade or disturb them.

It is a good deal more than an hundred years since the historian (Mr. CAMDEN) gave the following account of the people of this isle :"The inhabitants in general," says he," have "a very good character: not given either to "lewdness, cheating, or thievery; so that every "man possesseth his own in peace and safety; "none living in fear of losing what he has.""This island," the historian adds, "is happier "on another account, than we are in England; "for the people are free from vexatious and "unnecessary law-suits, from long and dilatory

pleas, and from frivolous feeing of lawyers, “proctors, and attornies; all controversies being


"determined, without long process, every man pleading his own cause vivâ voce.'

Now this, we are too sure, is neither the case nor the character of the times we live in. Very late and melancholy instances we have had to the contrary. Many honest men's properties have been invaded, some by force, and some by fraud. The civil magistrate can tell us, how very litigious the people are grown of late, to the great increase of his burthen, and the expense of his time; and the people, too many of them, have smarted by the mal-practice of such as live and gain by contention. The ecclesias tical magistrate meets every day with new, and heretofore unheard of instances of the contempt of God and of religion.


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Whether it be for want of better laws, to put a stop to these growing evils, with which an holy and a righteous God must be highly displeased, or for any other cause, it will be worth the care of the legislature, in the first place, to make more effectual provision, that God in all things may be glorified; ever remembering, that there is neither wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord; that is, where there is not a regard to his honour.

But even the best laws that can be made will be of little use, unless they are faithfully put in execution, and by men of religion and integrity.

It was said of the Athenians, (as a learned man has observed,) that they shewed a great deal of wisdom in making excellent laws, but a much greater folly in not observing them; and this was owing, in a great measure, to the negligence

or corruption of the inferior magistrates. This the Romans took care to prevent in the beginning of their common-wealth, by requiring under the severest penalties, that magistrates should be examples of that behaviour which they required of others. "If this," saith their great lawyer Cicero, "if this be observed, we have all that we can wish for."

And indeed it is the highest false step that men in power and authority can make, to give any manner of countenance to men of wicked lives, or of loose and wicked principles. For, to be sure, that man who makes light of God, of his word, and his laws, will, when he can do it with impunity, despise the magistrate, who is God's representative, and those laws which are made by him for the good government of the world.

Magistrates, therefore, and all in authority, are above all others obliged to be upon their guard, because the lesser world will too readily follow their example, especially if bad; for so the corruption of human nature, which is prone to evil continually, will lead them too forcibly.

And what will be the natural consequence of this? Why, the fear of God will be forgotten; men will be left to themselves, and to the conduct of Satan; pride and luxury will follow: and to support these, covetousness, injustice, fraud, and knavery, will succeed; as also a litigious temper, a disregard for oaths, perjury, and oppressing one another; and lastly, which must ever be remembered by people of any consideration, the judgments of God upon a

sinful nation, if these sins go unpunished; which they will be too apt to do, if the magis trate himself be wanting in his duty to him whom he represents.

To prevent this, it should be considered, that no 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 some 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 such whose duty it is to obey, would obey for conscience sake.

It was a powerful argument, which Joseph, 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: Gen. xli. 18. “This do," said 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.

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