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sacred obligation and discriminating subjection, the undaunted and emboldened apostles were warranted in their answer to the Sanhedrim of the Jews; “ Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
CHRISTIANITY and civil society were instituted for several and distinct purposes, and are not essentially dependent one on the other. The former recognises and pursues the spiritual and eternal destinies of man ; treats him as a subject of Divine government, to whose understanding and moral powers of discrimination the laws and requirements of the Supreme Governor appeal ; who is laid under obligations which cannot be modified or dissolved by the pursuits or character of a surrounding universe ; and whose personal and eternal welfare and peace may be secured by a power and operation which the world cannot give, nor take away. The terms and the acceptance are between the Creator and the creature alone ; with these a stranger cannot intermeddle. To religion belongs the knowledge and service of God, which are either above the reach and light of nature, unaided by Divine revelation, and therefore liable to be variously understood by human reason; or respect such things as are enjoined or forbidden by Divine precept, which would otherwise seem to the light of reason indifferent to be done or undone ; and must be obeyed by every man, as the precept is understood. A consciousness of religion, is that full persuasion whereby we are assured that our belief and practice, as far as we are able to apprehend, is according to the will of God, as revealed by his Spirit,—a rule which we ought much rather to follow, than any statute law of man. Communities of Christians may, and ought to be formed; but while in the world, they are not of the world; they seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; a kingdom which is not of this world ; which, as it is not meat and drink, may be inherited by them who are poor and despised ; and who, having nothing to pay, are made heirs, without money and without price. Here the rich and the poor meet together; the brother of low degree rejoices in that he is exalted, the rich in that he is made low: and as in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, so in his church there is neither king nor peasant, magistrate, nor subject, they are all one in him, every one members one of another: while He is the head of his body, which is his church, the citizen and the alien, the bond and free, the Scythian and Barbarian, the Gentiles and the seed of Abraham, if believers in him, are born of God, and joint heirs with his Son; and if they suffer with him, they shall also reign with him, and be glorified together. The church thus constituted is not dependent on the forms of civil society. The most perfect models of civic or national polity have not originated in ecclesiastical communities. The most distinguished functionaries in secular governments have arisen to eminence, not merely nor always from excellency as Christians. Oftentimes have Christians of great sanctity and sterling principle, been singularly disqualified for magisterial or state offices; while the children of this world have been far wiser in their generation than the children of light; the profound jurisconsult, and the philosophical legislator, may yet have been blind, as well as hostile, to the humbling and simplest truths of the gospel ; since God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things of this world to confound the things which are mighty.
Many are the ministers of God, and their offices are no less varied than numerous ; but none differ more than those of state and church government. - He who desires to exercise both, in the character of civil governor, is
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more inconsistent than the lord prelate or church pluralist; and makes himself supreme lord of the church as far as his civil jurisdiction extends : employing the ministers of God as his ministers, or his curates rather, in the function only, not in government.” The instances of Moses and the Jewish kings, who ruled by immediate and Divine direction, will not serve as illustrative paral
for not only might they, whenever they conformed to Divine directions, receive answers from God, but their commonwealth was designed and delivered by his authority, and expressly incorporated with a national church, exercised more in external rites than in spiritual worship. Their church might be called a commonwealth, and the whole commonwealth a church. Nothing of which can be said of Christianity, which was accredited without the help of magistrates, and in the midst of their most powerful opposition. Its references to them are few, and they are only mentioned when our obedience to their civil laws, as they countenance good and deter from evil, is enjoined.
A precedent, therefore, cannot be derived from the kings of Israel, or the authority of heathen princes, who carried that people captive, for the right of magistrates to interfere in the spiritual matters, or for the duty of subjects to render obedience to them in religious things.
The author of Christianity has a government of his own, sufficient of itself to all his ends and
purposes in ruling his church, but essentially different from that of the civil magistrate ; and its distinction principally consists in this, that he governs not by outward force—the subjects of his government are the inward man and his affections, which are spiritual, and not regulated by physical restraints. The Divine excellency of his spiritual government is evinced, when he is able without bodily force to subdue all the powers and kingdoms of the world, which are only upheld by carnal power. The
understanding and will as the inward part of man, and the actions proceeding from them under the influence of Divine grace, are the whole matter of religion under the gospel. Evangelical obedience is described by the terms faith and charity,—belief and practice : nay, the whole of practical religion is comprehended in one word, charity, or the love of God and our neighbour—a willing homage, not to be constrained but by love: this is the fulfilling of the whole law. If then this comprehensive principle be the development of the faculties of the inward man, free and spontaneous in their nature, induced with freedom, and constrained only by heaven-born charity, incapable of force, yet made willing by the gift and power of God, which has regenerated and sanctified ;-how can such religion admit of force from man, or human control be any way applied to such religion, especially under the free offer of grace in the gospel, without frustrating its designs, and making its operation of no effect ? To compel an outward profession is to compel hypocrisy, and put a premium on falsehood.
Yet Christianity does not appear, in any of its principles or requirements, subversive of civil relations in the higher or subordinate gradations of society. It neither abrogates the rights of the citizen, or deprives the monarch of his throne; it neither cancels the title-deeds of property, or obliterates the roll of ancestral rank and worth. It gives the citizen and magistrate, the noble and the landed proprietor, the peasant and the prince, who acknowledge its authority, new and nobler motives for patriotism, a greater and more dignified prize as their ulterior reward, than the flattery or smiles of their fellow-men : but it neither levels or subverts the ranks of civil society ; it still prescribes honour to whom honour is due, custom to whom custom, and fear to whom fear: subjection to principalities and powers, and obedience to magistrates.