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will reign, and none who trust in him shall ever be ashamed. Job xxxiv. 29.; Isaiah xl. 15.; Daniel iv. 35.
How encouraging, therefore, my brethren, to the Christian patriot, is the scene in which we are at this moment engaged! Here we behold the constituted authorities of the state, the representatives of royalty, the executive arm of our Sovereign Lord the King, bowing before the cross of Jesus of Nazareth, declaring themselves miserable sinners, professing to have obtained pardon and peace only through the precious blood of the atonement, avowing that they have no power in themselves to help themselves, that there is none other who fighteth for them but only thou, O God! and that thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Here we see the ministers of the Gospel of God, although taken from among the people, without rank, or riches, or station, yet as the ministers of God, appointed to conduct the devotion of the rulers, and to preach to them the words of eternal life; respectfully, yet earnestly, to remind them whose they are, and whom they profess to serve; affectionately, yet faithfully, to entreat them to execute their high office in the fear of God, and in the love of their fellow creatures, and under a deep sense of our common responsibility, to point to that tribunal before which we must all appear to give account of the things done in the body, whether they were good or bad. Here we behold some of our most learned men, professing to be convinced that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, that one thing is needful, that all worldly distinctions and honours, whether of profound erudition, or of brilliant eloquence, are not worthy to be compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and therefore seeking to have all their attainments sanctified by the word of God, and by prayer. And here we behold an assembled congregation of the King's subjects professing to acknowledge, and cheerfully and religiously to submit to, the rightful authority of their rulers, as received from God for the public good!
Now, if this scene were really, in the sight of God, what it thus seemeth to be in the eyes of men, and if such scenes were common, there would be more security for England in them, than in her fleets and armies, her colonies and manufactures. If all her rulers, and all her ministers of religion, and all her lawyers, and all her jurymen, and all the people who assemble in her established courts of worship, were indeed what they repeatedly, in so many words, profess themselves to be, England would be invulnerable, for the great God himself, the ruler of heaven, and earth, and hell, would be
in her palaces, temples, mansions, and cottages, as a sure refuge, and his people should never be ashamed.
But is this the case? Is the real state of the country any thing like this? My brethren, it is not; you know it is not; in the particular instance before us, you are forced to feel that it is not; and were I to say or imply that it is, I would be betraying my high office as a witness for the God of truth, and an ambassador for his Son Jesus Christ; I would be enrolling myself among those false teachers who say peace, peace, when there is no peace; I would be abusing this responsible opportunity, which God in his providence hath given me; I would be administering, as far as lieth in me, to the continuance of your dangerous delusion; and bringing on my own soul the fearful curse of God denounced against lying lips and a flattering tongue. No! the truth must be told, though it be disagreeable to hear, and extremely painful to speak. If I stood in this place as a courtier, I would speak on quite a different subject. If I stood here as a private gentleman, I would, from common civility and personal ease, refrain from topics which are disagreeable to my auditory and to myself. But standing here, as I do this day, the commissioned messenger of the Lord God of Hosts, I have no choice; necessity is laid upon me, I must speak what I believe to be the truth, not as pleasing men, but God who trieth the heart.
And what is the truth in reference to the assembling of this congregation? Why are our nobles here? why all our official men ? Because they are commanded by the State, that is, because divine service, at the opening of an assize, is the custom of the country, attended pro forma, and dispatched as a part of the regular routine of business, but not felt as an acknowledgment that the power now to be exercised by man is derived from God; not entered upon from any personal sense of deep and eternal responsibility, any fear of the Most High, any love of his holy name, or true delight in worshipping before his throne of grace. Is it not so ? Are you not here as a mere matter of course? Did any other idea or feeling upon the subject enter your minds during that part of the service which was necessarily confined to the accustomed form ? and if not, needs there any other proof of the justice of this charge ?*
* Since this was written, a circumstance has occurred corroborating, to a most deplorable extent, the charge here brought forward. The High Sheriff has informed me, that at Kingston a committee of Magistrates was convened upon county business, and actually sat during the time that the Judges were in the house of God. And further, that it has been gravely contended by some of the Magistrates, that it would be an improvement upon the mode of conducting the
And why are the people here? Most of them are drawn by idle curiosity, joining in, and gazing at a procession of men, without one movement of their hearts towards God; and some by a strange mixture of religion and curiosity, anxious about the extension of Gospel truth, supposing that it is seldom spoken before great men, and curious to witness the present opportunity afforded to a minister of God, and the use which he shall make of it, but not truly
business on the first day of the assize, if the Judge were to swear in the Grand Jury before he goes to church, and leave them to find bills during divine service, in order that he might proceed, without loss of time, to try some of the prisoners, as soon as he comes out of church.
We know the arguments by which such a practice and such an opinion are defended; and we know that under whatever plausible disguise they may be couched, however the urgency of the county business may be pleaded, however the necessity of getting quickly through the gaol delivery may be magnified; the true source of all such argumentation is this—that with such men the service of God is a mere antiquated form, tolerated as harmless in itself, and a good engine of government, but not felt or entered upon as a matter of conscience. How far, beyond what is generally suspected, is the spirit of infidelity diffused !
The fact which took place at Kingston is truly grievous. In reference, however, to the proposed amendment, as general practice, we have much confidence, that in whatever numbers the gentlemen of any county may thus agree to declare themselves unchristian, no Judge will for a moment hearken to the disgraceful, the sacrilegious proposal.