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II. A ruler should be just. He ought to be a man who respects the rights of others, and who feels the criminality of violating them. It is the declaration of God-He that ruleth over men must be just. Is he a legislator? Justice will be the foundation of the laws which he enacts. Is he a judge ? His interpretations of the law, and his decisions, will be impartial and just. He will do no unrighteousness in judgment; nor will he respect the person of the poor, or honour the person of the mighty ; but in righteousness will he judge his neighbour. Is he intrusted with the executive government ? He will faithfully, and in conformity to the laws, perform the duty assigned him.
III. A ruler must have regard to the happiness of men. In the exercise of enlarged benevolence he will look to the good which he may be the means of accomplishing, not only to the existing, but to future generations. He will regard himself as the minister of God for advancing the good of his fellow-creatures ; and the blessings which flow from his government will lead others to regard him in this character. The administration of law he will temper with mercy. The wrongs of the people he will, if possible, prevent, and always hasten to remove. He will employ his power,
in imitation of that God whose goodness extends unto all, in diffusing happiness around him, and in extending the influence of pure and undefiled religion, by which alone the virtue and happiness of man can be effectually promoted.
IV. A ruler should respect the laws of his country. He should do so not only generally, but in every
particular, in all that relates to his own official conduct, and in whatever affects the rights of others. On every principle he is bound to shew this deference to the laws; from his love of justice, of rational liberty, and of the peace and prosperity of his country. He ought, therefore, to be well acquainted with the constitution and laws of the realm.
To the king of Israel it was enjoined: “ It shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write a copy of this law in a book, and it shall be with him ; and he shall read therein all the days of his life ; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren ; and that he turn not aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left*.”
V. A ruler is bound to exhibit a good example. As a man, he ought in his own conduct to be blameless; to be a pattern in his obedience to the laws of God and of man; and to lead others by the silent but powerful influence of his virtues to honour God, and to keep his commandments. He should be regular in the observance of his duties to God, in revering his name and ordinances, in remembering and sanctifying the sabbath, and, generally, in practising the things that are true, and just, and honest, and lovely, and of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise. He will, in this way, render his elevation a public blessing, the means of checking vice, and of encouraging and diffusing virtue. His eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that
* Deut. xvii. 19, 20.
they may dwell with him; he that walketh in a perfect way
shall serve him: he that worketh deceit shall not be in his house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in his sight.
There is not a greater earthly blessing than pious and just rulers, nor any for which the people have greater cause to be thankful. When God denounced judgments against Israel he threatened them with the removal of such rulers from all the departments of the government. Behold the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff; the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; the mighty man and the man of war; the judge and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient; the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes ; and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour *.”
When we reflect on all that good rulers may be instrumental in accomplishing,—not merely in averting the numerous evils which affect the liberty, the property, and the life of man,-but in the blessings which they communicate, the privileges which they guard, the institutions for promoting the education, comfort, safety, usefulness, religion, and morals, of unborn millions, which they patronize, we cannot but regard the judgment here denounced as one of the very heaviest that can fall on mankind.
* Isa. iii. 1-5.
THE DUTY OF SUBJECTS.
We cannot impress too deeply on our mind a sense of the great importance of a faithful discharge of our obligations to the government under which we live, and which we are bound by so many ties to support and defend. These obligations are numerous; and the Scripture by enforcing them by all the sanctions of religion, strengthens greatly the bands of civil society.
I. Christianity inculcates on subjects the duty of obedience to their rulers. To this I have already adverted, and only again recur to it for the purpose of making a very few additional observations. This duty is enforced by far higher motives, and on much surer grounds, by Divine Revelation, than it is possible for unaided reason to suggest. It commands its disciples to regard the existing authorities, without any inquiry as to their origin, as appointed by God; and to give them the prompt and universal obedience due to Him whose will they express, and whose benevolent designs they are intended to promote. It represents governors as the servants of God, and exercising, in the discharge of their office, a power delegated to them by the Sovereign Ruler of all things.
Thus, obedience to magistrates is enjoined by the authority of God ;-an authority which must influence
the conscience, and secure to the ordinances of civil government a faithful observance. A provision is made for the order and stability of society, by making disobedience to lawful authority a sin equal in aggravation to a trespass of the law of God. Christianity binds subjects to obedience by far greater penalties than it is in the power of magistrates to inflict-by the pains of God's displeasure ; and reminds them os an approaching day, in which they must answer at his tribunal for this part of their conduct.
II. The particular duties which we owe to our rulers, and the manner in which these duties ought to be performed, are specified in the Scriptures. In our obedience to civil magistrates we are there required to have God, his authority, and glory, constantly in view; and to consider them as entitled to our subjection, not because they have greater power than we, but because they are the officers of the King Eternal, and rule by his commission. Unless we view them in this light we wrong him whose servants they are,-just as much as we should wrong the monarch to whose representative we did not render due honour.
Subjects are not at liberty, on account of the vices of their rulers, to forget the dignity and authority of their office. Nor are they in the slightest degree, in consequence of these personal sins, exempted from obedience. Nor are they, on any principle of christian duty allowed to speak evil of them, or to bring railing accusations against them. While they may cautiously and modestly exercise their judgment on the public conduct of their rulers, they are to speak