divine law are concerned, are made “party questions," and many more evils than it would be proper here to name, spring from this most unhappy and heaven-provoking state of things.

Ministers, as well as private Christians, have too easily symbolized with the politicians, in this matter; and some have made the pulpit a place for the display of the banner of a party, and for crying up, or crying down, an administration. Wo to the inhabitants of the earth, and the sea, for the devil is come !” announced a minister, for his text, in the pulpit, on the accession of Mr. Jefferson to the presidency of the United States. And but too common, in years past, have been the excitements of feeling, on political subjects, which have been created by inflammatory addresses from the pulpits of different denominations, on days of public fasting, or at the opening of legislative sessions, as well as at other times. God has thus been dishonored in his own sanctuary, and the place for "preaching the word,” been made a place for that odious and irritating exercise, "preaching politics.”

Now the Christian mourns over various vices which deform man's outward character, and he ought to mourn over these hateful vices of the mind, which have had place in his own, and the character of multitudes of the professors of the Christian faith. “ That no one of you should be puffed up for one against another ;” and,“ be clothed with humility; and, " trust ye in the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength;” are divine sentences, on which he should think; and by the close and faithful application of which to his conscience, he should be kept from sinning. In the midst of all these proud boastings of worldly minds, these contentions of fellow citizens with one another, or these false and irritating alarms about ruinous administrations ; he should be the serious and considerate friend of his country, urging the precepts of that “ charity which is the bond of perfectness,"

" and warning his countrymen, that if this nation is ever in the righteous judgment of God, “ dashed in pieces as a potter's vessel," it will not be for the political sins of one administration, nor two, nor three; but for the transgressions of the ruled as well as the rulers, and for the accumulation of national guilt through years of prosperity, and in continued and ungrateful abuse of the " long-suffering of God.”

He should give honor to God, among his fellow citizens,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

by taking that view of our national prosperity, which is gained in " remembering the years of the right hand of the Most

“ High," and his “ wonders of old,” and by pointing other men to the right explanations of all which has been so happily realized in our history. Especially, whenever he feels solicitude respecting national affairs, should he do this. He should ever guard against distrustful and melancholy forebodings, which would wrong the divine goodness and mercy. “I will trust, and not be afraid," is a frame of spirit both happy for the Christian citizen and honorable to God. “ Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord,” said the prophet, who saw God's hand in all the prosperity his country had enjoyed, “thou hast increased the nation, thou art glorified.” The richness of our blessings will be enhanced by contemplating the hand which has bestowed them. The events in which we were “ brought out into a large place," built up, established, increased on every side, filled with spiritual privileges, and with gifts of Providence, and made to be in reputation among the nations of the earth; "these are the Lord's doings. And let the Christian have no fel

' low-feeling with those who would say, "by the strength of our hand have we done it, and by our wisdom, for we are prudent."

But with his highest confidence, he must study and do his duties as a citizen, steadily, conscientiously, devoutly. We have said the Christian must pray for the government of his country. He must pray, too, for the people. The memorable prayer of Daniel, is full of instruction on this duty. He 6 set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes ; " for himself, for his noble heart seemed to have scarce a corner for the dwelling-place of selfishness. He went to the footstool of “the throne of grace,” that he might weep, and confess, and plead, for a nation and kingdom which had forgotten God, and “lightly esteemed the Rock of their salvation.” He took his place with them in the tenderness of penitential sorrow, for his own participation in the guilt which had “provoked the eye of God's holiness.” And while he was thus employed, Gabriel touched him, and spoke words of comfort to his troubled spirit; and showed him that his solitary voice, pleading for a " sinful nation,” had “ entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” Ezra and Nehemiah, too, could testify that God is a hearer of


prayer, in the darkest night that ever settled upon a nation. When it shall be felt by the Christian citizen, that the closet, the family, and the sanctuary, are not only the places to mention our individual sins, sorrows, and wants; but also to embrace, in the circumference of our desires, the concerns of the nation at large; and when Christians forget themselves, in praying for the public weal; then will the thunders of the divine indignation begin to soften and die away, and the voice of " him that sitteth upon the throne,” be heard, speaking of freedom and peace; and the bow of his mercy be seen amidst the shower of divine blessings.

But the duties of the Christian citizen do not all lie even here. Prayer and faith are only preparations to act. God has said, “righteousness exalteth a nation ;” “Keep therefore and do my statutes, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” That prevalence of holiness, as constituting national character, to which the Bible calls, is not only to be asked in prayer by Christians, but promoted by their doing almost uncounted duties as citizens. A nation like ours, should know that holy men are among them, by the untiring diligence, the unflinching boldness, the conscientious faithfulness, and the hearty good will, with which Christians, as citizens, shall do every good work, and answer every obligation. God said to his people, “ seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives ; and pray unto the Lord for it, for in the

peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

The Christian, under such a form of government as ours, should consider himself bound in conscience to exercise his rights, as an elector, with his fellow citizens at large. That direction of God to Moses, may be properly taken as a guide to every freeman; “ Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear God; men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, (i. e. the people,) to be rulers of thousands and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens.” He is to interest himself in seeking, with his fellow citizens, for men of the right qualifications for office, in all its ranks; men of talents, disinterestedness, integrity, piety; as those from whom may be expected the most upright adininistration of government. The religion of no man excuses him from this duty. The more consci

entious and devout his piety, the better is he fitted to contribute his efforts, for bringing into places of trust, good men. On the day of election, he is out of his place, even in his closet, if he is thus neglecting his duties as an elector. He should pray on such days, it is true ; but he should act, also. He should go forth, and be the Christian in the elective assembly. If there be unprincipled and wicked men, seeking to carry plans which would be unfriendly to sound morals and the religion of the gospel, they should be made to know that the energy of moral principle is not to be derided, nor good men driven into corners; but that Christian principle will put itself forth to frustrate the counsels of licentiousness; and that good men will leave nothing undone, to maintain the order which is enjoined on a nation by the word of God. This should be done by the Christian, remembering that his faithfulness there, takes hold on his own peace of conscience, the happiness of his own home, the safety and honor of his country, and above all, upon the glory of his Father in heaven. Although he may have to lament, sometimes, that “the vilest men are exalted,” yet let him remember, that he is not even by these circumstances excused from doing his duty. That feeling, “there is no hope,” is the effect of distrust towards God. Up, and be doing duty. “ Has God forgotten to be gracious?” Has God no vicegerent and the Christian no ally in the breasts of wicked men, even their own consciences? Has God ceased to be able to “make the wrath of man to praise him,” and to " restrain the remainder of wrath ?” If that prophecy is to be fulfilled, that “ kings shall be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers” to the interests of the kingdom of God in this world, it is to be through the instrumentality of his people. He will not work miracles, but he will make him who " hath clean hands, to wax stronger and stronger ;” and will in his own good time, “ still the noise of the waves, the tumult of the people.”

Our limits permit us to remark upon but one topic more. It is, that the Christian live for the conversion of his countrymen to God. We have had occasion to quote that text, " righteousness exalteth a nation." Let the meaning of this righteousness be understood. It is not simply for a nation to be in reputation for virtue, or external morality. Righteousness in a nation, is the same as in any devout and holy man, “pure and undefiled religion before God and the

[ocr errors]

Father.” We have the name of a “Christian nation,” not because we are a nation of Christians; but because that we have some religion among us, and are not a nation of atheists, heathens, or Mohammedans; because that there applies to us the declaration of God to his prophet concerning Israel, that he had “reserved unto himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal ;” because there is a restraining influence on the people at large, from the possession of the word of God, and to some extent the preaching of it, keeping us from absolute national licentiousness. But how far short all this is, of the requisitions of the Ruler of the world, and of that which should be our safety, honor, and prosperity, let the Christian citizen well consider. That to which God calls us as a nation, is, to a receiving, and acting upon, these holy principles of life and conduct, which are at the foundation of all that is righteous in his sight—that we become a nation of Christians. It must cease to be the fact, that the overwhelming majority of the people have “no fear of God before their eyes”-that the great proportion of the hearers of the gospel be the neglecters of the gospel—that the largest portion of our country be without the ministry and ordinances of the religion of the gospel—that the laws of God be forgotten and trampled upon by the multitude, and by numbers of our great menthat vice deforms and pollutes millions—and there go on, as heretofore, such fearful "treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath.” We must “cease to do evil, and learn to do well," not in a few outward matters of propriety and reputation among men, but in the whole inward frame of the spirit, and outward habits of life, as in the sight of a holy God; and this, not a few thousands of us, but twelve millions. We talk, and pray, and labor, respecting

the conversion of the world ; 9 and it is well. But we must talk, and pray, and labor, respecting the conversion of this yet not half Christianized nation. The end of national existence and prosperity, is not for itself; any more than the end for which man was created, was to consider for a few years “ what shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed," and then to drop into nothingness. It is “to glorify God:” and herein will be its truest blessedness, the accomplishment of the legitimate object of its existence. Could the shining of the millennial glory be poured for one hour upon us, and our true national


« VorigeDoorgaan »