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the Divine glory through the mediation of a prevailing Advocate,- the Christian citizen will regard parliamentary legislation and municipal arrangements as legitimately the subjects of prayer, and success in them as dependent on the pleasure of God, as is his daily bread, or his attainments in Divine fellowship and knowledge. He will not then be ashamed to call upon God, who, without respect of persons, judgeth every man in reference to the civil blessings of society, any more than he is to engage in the devotions of the sanctuary. When the measures of a worldly nature are thus pursued, there is little fear that they will unduly engross attention, be hurtful in their operation upon the mind, pervert the affections from the realities of a heavenly state, make a god of the world, or become prejudicial to the superior claims of personal religion and growth in grace, and conformity with the image of Christ Jesus.
The question as to the relation which a Christian sustains as a member of civil society, is not merely an interesting topic for discussion ; but in the correct apprehension of it
be involved some of the most important principles of political economy, as well as not a few of the duties and personal obligations of the most useful citizens in the community. It will also aid us in our considerations and conclusions regarding the claims of ecclesiastical establishments. The Jewish religion introduced the proselytes not merely into the congregation of the Lord, but into the commonwealth of Israel ; subjected them to the judicial as well as ritual law of their land, and incorporated them as citizens of the state. Christianity affects no such secular control. A Roman, a Turk, a Briton, remain such after they have bowed to the yoke of Christ, and professed to take up his cross. Christianity finds the convert a member of civil society, and imparts to him her benefits, but deprives him of no qualification, and unfits him for no honourable employment as a member of the community. He may have been a poor outcast in society—the offscouring of all things; but Christian truth brings him “ to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,”—and still he is the brother of low degree. He may have deemed himself, and been reputed, rich and increased with goods, having need of nothing: but the counsel of his Saviour has shewn him
DISTINCTIONS IN SOCIETY.
the nothingness of these, and he has been constrained to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus; nevertheless his substance remains in his own power, subject only to a responsible discretion. Statesmen and senators, magistrates and judges, nobles and kings, if not only almost but altogether persuaded to become Christians, give honour to Him who has said, “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength ; by me kings reign and princes decree justice; by me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.”
But even then, when in lowliness of mind, and prostrate humiliation before God, and in equality of sinfulness with the least of all God's saints, it is in relation to God's moral government, and as subject to the sentence of His law, they are humbled; it is not by comparison with man, or in reference to official distinctions.
If Christianity disqualify not for civil offices, and subject the citizen to no necessary privation in dignity or reward, neither does it invest the professor of it with power over the consciences, the opinions, or religious practices, of his fellow-men. Religion, in the words of an apostle, applied to “circumcision, is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of man, but of God.” It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness, before that confession can be made with the mouth unto salvation. A Christian may laudably exert himself to promulgate his views of doctrine, and labour by persuasion to bring others to his creed; but after that he has no more that he can do. He has not power over the spirit to restrain the spirit; he cannot discern or know the things of a man, or control the heart or the conscience of his neighbour as his keeper or confessor. It is enough for him to answer for himself in that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open; nor will he be held responsible or required to give to the Lord a ransom for the soul of his brother, -every man will give account of himself to God. Religion is a matter that comes not by constraint, but willingly, “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, and having a readiness to avenge all disobedience.” It is evident by the preceding verses of this passage, that the apostle here speaks of that. spiritual power by which Christ governs his church, how all-sufficient it is, how powerful to reach the conscience and the inward man, with whom it chiefly deals, and whom no power else deals with. “In comparison of which, as it is here magnificently described, how ineffectual and weak is outward force, with all her boisterous tools, to the shame of those Christians, and especially those churchmen, who, to the exercise of church discipline, never cease calling on the civil magistrate to interpose his fleshly force, an argument that all true ministerial and spiritual power is dead within them; who think the gospel, which both began and spread over the whole world for above three hundred
under heathen and persecuting emperors, cannot stand or continue, supported by the same Divine presence and protection, to the world's end, much easier under the defensive favour only of a Christian magistrate; unless it is enacted and settled, as they call it, by a state, a statute, or a state religion; and understand not that the Church itself cannot, much less the State, settle or impose one tittle of religion upon our implicit obedience, but can only recommend or propound it to our free and conscientious examination.”
CHRIST'S GOVERNMENT NOT SECULAR.
The Divine Founder of Christianity, as "author and finisher of our faith,” nowhere assumes in exercise the power of investing any member of civil society with authority to exact, from the members of the general community, resources for the maintenance or defence of his peculiar opinions or religion. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. He, who declared that his kingdom was not of this world, else would his servants fight; and who reproved his overzealous disciple, whose wrong interpretation of a previous direction led him hastily to draw a sword in his master's defence, saying, “ Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword;" has exemplified, by his payment of the half-shekel tribute, which was due to his Father's house, and his patient endurance of humble poverty, what he would have his followers do. It should ever be remembered, that Jesus was not only the predicted Son of David, king of Israel, but He was also the lineal and rightful heir to his crown and kingdom; that he had not only a claim by hereditary succession; not only were the people anticipating the appearance of Messiah in David's line to be a king, and expressed repeatedly their desire that he would assume the regal title and the throne of David. But he had power more than sufficient to subdue Roman legions by legions of angels, and possessed influence over the hearts of men, from the Roman governor to the Roman centurion, so as to make them willing in the day of his power. Generals and soldiers could have been controlled, not alone at the cross or the grave, but wherever and whenever He pleased.
He who was rich, for our sakes became poor ; and while foxes had holes, and birds of the air had nests, the Son of Man had not where to lay his head.
Let it not be argued that he had a special character to sustain, and a particular work to accomplish ; for so have his followers : and the interests and designs of his king