« PreviousContinue »
respect, and set themselves faithfully to perform their duty. Thus Abraham did. "I know him (said the Lord) that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord." Gen. xviii. 19. And thus also Joshua did. "As for me and my house (said he) we will serve the Lord." Josh.
In exercising due religious care over servants, several particular duties are incumbent. It is the duty of christian masters to dedicate the servants which belong to them, unto God in baptism; and thus to bind themselves to God and his church, for the performance of their duty towards them; and that their servants may become interested in those blessings which are connected with a visible relation to the church of Christ. In proof of this duty you are referred to the example of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the pattern of believers. He put the sign of circumcision, which was then the seal of the righteousness of faith, not only upon his sons; but also upon all the males that were born in his house, and that were bought with his money. And christian masters are equally bound now to have them baptised, as Abraham was of old to have them circumcised. Many christians in many parts of the church do feel their obligations in this respect and do perform this duty; and we have had some instances of it among ourselves, though many neglect it.
Again, it is the duty of masters to give their servants religious instruction, and to give them opportunities to gain such instruction. They ought to be taught to read, that they may read the word of God for themselves. And they ought to be instructed in the great principles of the christian religion. And when they manifest a disposition, they ought to be allowed a reasonable time, and suitable opportunities to enable them to gain religious instruction. And here I would remark that the present generation enjoy opportunities to acquire knowledge and gain religious instruction, which those who have lived before them have not enjoyed. I have reference particularly to Sabbath Schools. It is the duty of servants who have the liberty, to attend these schools. And it is the duty of masters to give them the liberty; and further, if necessary, to exise their authority to cause them to attend upon this ortant means of instruction.
Again it is the duty of masters to set a good example before their servants; and to recommend religion to them by their example. The influence of example is great, and without this the best instructions will probably be lost.
Again it is the duty of masters to give their servants time and opportunity to attend upon the means of grace; and to see that they do attend upon them. They ought to be allowed and required to attend upon the public worship of God's house, and not to be detained except in cases of necessity. They ought also to require them to attend upon family worship. And it is their duty to restrain them from violations of the Sabbath day. In this respect, many masters are very guilty; for the Sabbath is kept by their Servants as a holiday. Masters who allow this, or who do not take the measures in their power to prevent it, are very guilty in the sight of God; and will have a sad account to render to their master in heaven when he comes to reckon with them. Besides masters will and do suffer in their temporal interests for these things. Nothing more effectually tends to destroy every moral principle, and therefore to make servants unfaithful than Sabbath-breaking. Let masters be exhorted as they regard their own temporal interests, and as they would not have the blood of their souls laid to their charge in the great day of account, to require their servants to abstain from the profanation of the Sabbath, and outwardly to respect and observe its institutions.
Once more, it is the duty of masters to pray for their servants. All other attempts for their spiritual and eternal good, ought to be followed with prayer to God for his blessing, to render the means used, effectual to their everlasting salvation.
From this subject we learn that the christian religion is excellent, and calculated to promote human happiness.If servants were to perform their duty, and masters their's as enjoined in the Scriptures, they would mutually promote each other's happiness. God who has given such a law, so calculated to promote the happiness of his creatures, must be good, and worthy to be loved and obeyed. And the religion which is calculated to make persons good and happy in the several stations and relations of life, must be excellent, and is worthy to be embraced by all.
Let servants suffer this discourse to have its due effect upon their minds. Study to become acquainted with the duties of your station, as they are taught in the word of God; and conscientiously endeavour to perform them, as to the Lord. If you expect God's favour, you must be obedient to his commands. If you have but little committed to you, be faithful in that little, "knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." Remember that you have immortal souls; and let the care of these be your great concern. And remember that one, and an important part of true religion is, to be faithful, in the performance of the duties of the station in which you are placed, and the relations you bear to others.
And let masters remember, that they are accountable to one, who is their master in heaven for the performance of their duty in this as well as every other relation. Let them study to know their duty, and set themselves to perform it. Let them be humbled for past sins in this respect, and reform. And let them especially ever maintain a deep sense of the value of the souls of their servants; and by every means which God has made it their duty to use, endeavour to effect their eternal salvation.-AMEN.
DUTIES OF RULERS AND RULED.
ROMANS XI. 1.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God."
Civil government is a divine ordinance, designed for the good of mankind. Man is a social creature. He therefore naturally associates with his fellow-man. This he
does, not only from necessity, for mutual help and protection; but also from a natural love to society. And if it is agreeable to human nature, that men should associate with each other, laws are evidently necessary to enable them to live together, with any tolerable degree of happiness in society. For man is a depraved creature, and selfishness naturally predominates in his heart. Laws are therefore necessary, to regulate and restrain the selfish passions of men, preserve order in society, protect the rights of its several members, and promote the good of the whole. Even in the most virtuous civil communities, composed of such a race as ours, laws must be necessary to restrain and punish the wicked, and to decide disputes which from the blindness, prejudice, and selfishness of human nature, in even the best of men, will arise in society. And if laws are necessary, it is necessary they should be made and administered, and therefore that there should be rulers and consequently ruled. Hence, the relation of rulers and ruled arises out of the nature of man; and therefore civil government is an ordinance of God, who is as much the author of all those good institutions, which arise out of the nature of things, as he is of those for which there is his positive command.
Besides the Scriptures expressly ascribe the origin of civil government to God. This is done in our text. "There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." The same is repeatedly taught in several verses following our text. "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. He is the minister of God to thee for good. He is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. They are God's ministers." Elsewhere we are taught the same truth, as in the following passages. "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles even all the judges of the earth;" Prov. viii. 15, 16. "He removeth kings, and setteth up kings;" Dan. ii. 21. "The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will;" Dan. iv. 32. "Governors are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well;" 1 Pet. ii. 14. From these texts it fully appears that civil government is of divine appointment. But we are not to suppose that any particular form was divinely appointed, to
be obligatory on all communities, to the exclusion of all other forms.
The different simple forms of civil government are three viz. Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. There are different modifications of these; and there are other mixed forms, which combine something of some or of all the simple forms. It does not properly belong to a sermon, to enter into an explanation of the nature of these different forms, and point out their respective advantages and disadvantages; or to answer the inquiry, which is the best? On this last point I would just observe from a variety of circumstances, the genius of nations may differ so much, that what would be best for one people, may not be best for another. However, we believe a mixed form, composed of all the three simple forms, well tempered, is in itself the best, and the most likely to promote the great ends of government-general and individual happiness. But notwithstanding this, it may be further observed, that the government which is best administered, best promotes general and individual happiness.
Civil government is necessary for the good of man, is calculated to promote his happiness, and was instituted by God for his benefit. But this institution has often been abused, and in the hands of wicked rulers, has often proved an engine of very great oppression and cruelty. But this has arisen, not from government in itself being evil; but, through the depravity of human nature, from the abuse of that which is in itself good, and eminently calculated to promote general and individual happiness. And if rulers and ruled were mutually to perform their respective duties, government would greatly promote human happiness.
Let us attend to these duties.
I. Of rulers. Although the duties of rulers are not stated in our text; yet they are undoubtedly implied; for relative duties are mutual. If it is the duty of the people to be subject to the powers that be, it is equally the duty of rulers to exercise their authority aright. Their duties we may learn in detail from other parts of Scrip
In general, it is their duty to exercise the authority, with which they are vested, for the good of the people er which they are placed. To do this they ought to