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When Jonah threatened the destruction of the Ninivites and overthrow of their city, they were spared on their repentance, and the promulgation of a decree which carried in it the nature of an Establishment, or, at least, the high legislative encouragement of religion;" for word came unto the king of Niniveh, and he arose from bis throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Niniveh, by the decree of the king and bis nobles, saying, - let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing ; let them not feed nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell, if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way ; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." The power exercised, in some measure, by the king and nobles of Niniveh in the present case, and so favourably countenanced by God, involves in it the principle of the subject at issue, and manifests, so far as, in a country not yet proselytized, was possible, the interference of the civil magistrate in matters of religion. The same authority and beneficial effects are to be seen in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, during the days of Daniel :-On the preservation of the three children in the fiery furnace, " Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered bis servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a ruin; because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort.” Dan. iii. 28, 29. Now, whilst we would not wish to advocate an Establishment on principles so accordant with the genius of an eastern despotism,-yet it cannot be questioned that the stability and permanence of Nebuchadnezzar's throne arose from bis establishment (partial and erroneous as that establishment, in some particulars, might be,) of the true religion. “He was driven,” says Daniel, “from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts', and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass, like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven;" —for how long ?-_" Till he knew that the Most High God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.” Chap. v. 21. The ignorance or contempt of the same truth was the cause of his son's overthrow:“And thou,
O Belshazzar! bast not bumbled thine beart, though thou knewest all this."--Therefore,“ in that night was Belsbazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, slain, And Darius, the Median, took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old.” Dan, v. 22, 30, 31.
Darius, in like manner, presents another example of regal prosperity, arising from the countenance and support wbich he gave to the true religion. On the deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions, he thus speaks : “I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom, men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel ; for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be eren unto the end. He delivereth and rescuech, and be worketh signs and wonders in heaven, and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the
reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus, the Persian.” Dan. vi. 26, 28. And what Darius did, Cyrus improved upon. Let us hear the tes. timony of Ezra, the scribe, at the commencement of the first chapter of the book called by his name: Now, in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, (that the word of the Lord, by the mouth of Jeremiah, might be fulfilled,) the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all bis kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying : Thus saith Cyrus, the king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth : and be hath charged me to build him an house at, Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? bis God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojournetb, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the free-will offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Here there is a more enlarged platform of Ecclesiastical Establishment, which would seem to expand as it approaches nearer to the revelation of Christ. The sanction of the Divine favour in this respect baş accordingly been confirmed to Cyrus, pot only in the wealth, and dignity, and extens of bis empire ; but in the express words of prophecy: “Tbus saith the Lord to his anointed to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before bim į and I will loose the loi of Kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee. and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret, places,"; why? wherefore this grand apparatus, this expensive machinery of bạttles, foughts and kingdoms won,
of thrones upset, and realms ruined; of events and circumstances predicted and predestinated, but for this simple reason;" that thou mayest know that I the Lord who call thee by name, am the God of Israel. Fór Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by name : I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me."
Another illustration will seal up this source of argument: It is that of Artaxerxes, king of Persia,-"I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it shall be done speedily, unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures (or cors) of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil and salt, without prescribing how much whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of beaven : for, why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and bis sons ?" Ezra vii. 21.-23. Here, there was the exercise--if not of piety - at least of a great deal of sound prudence and circumspection, which the zeal of some modern theorists would do well to imitate, Let us hear how Ezra, that man of God, exults on the event of such an enactment : “ Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put-such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” Ezra vii. 27.
Such is the argument for Establishments, arising from the sanctioned authority of heathen kings. It consists of more than a mere example, which in itself may be either right or wrong. It consists of the example of kings, and those not Jewish, who cannot be frightened off the tield by the alleged bugbear of a Hebrew peculiarity; and that example, favoured and countenanced by the approbation of God. It is true, that the support afforded by those heathen kings, does not in all cases, or perhaps in any, amount to what may be called a real religious establishment; and that for the very reason that they were heathens. But, it is plain, from more instances than one, (in which they supported and maintained its functionaries, that they gave to the true religion a most benignant regard, and active toleration. Besides, it is sufficient for our argunient to shew (what in the preceding observa. tions we have endeavoured to evince,) that the ancient hea. then kings who were cotemporary with the Jews enjoyed prosperity, in proportion as they, in the capacity of monarchs, more or less countenanced the true religion. But, this leads me to remark,
4. That whilst God did at first establish the truth among the Jews,-whilst he countenanced its restoration, after being impaired by idolatry under their own kings, and sanctioned by his blessing its establishment among the heathen,-he bas recorded in his word a variety of passages which seem to favour its establishment, as a national religion, throughout the different quarters and countries of the world. And, here we must premise, that, in establishing the present position, all sorts of proof-if proceeding from the Word of God, whether consisting of history, or prophecy, or precept.-must be considered as equally valid, as equally emanating from the inspiration of the Almighty. And we deem it proper to make this avowal at the outset ; for, although some voluntary churchmen have been sufficiently prone to predict the efficacy and power of the spontaneous system in the conversion of men, they have occasionally displayed an uncommon sensitiveness, when, in connection with the future glory and stability of the Church, they have been plied with the
predictions of the Bible. “ Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders, and kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers.” Isaiah xlix. 22, 23. Here is a prophecy, as it is coufessed on all hands, predictive of the future greatness of the Church : but, the point at issue is, whether the
“ nursing fathers” and “nursing mothers® act simply as Christians, or as the civil heads of established Christian communities. Independents assert the former : Presbyterians, strictly so called, have, till of late, uniformly maintained the latter : and, the form of sound words, as well as the other predictions concerning the bringing in of the Jews, would strongly appear to indicate that the old Presbyterians are in the right. When we speak of a person or persons in public station performing an action in public life, we are instantaneously understood to mean,-unless there is some qualifying circumstance in the communication, that those persona act in the capacity of public characters. But, independently of this general rule, arising from the nature of language," the kings and queens, who shall be nursing fathers and nursing mothers” to the Church, can, in this instance, be understood in no other sense, from the fact that all Gentile nations shall, at the period of the prophecy*8 fulfilment, have been converted to Christianity. “Blindness in part” says the Apostle Paul, (Rom. xi. 25,)*" is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." If, then, as in the adduced prediction, “ kings and queens” shall act as Christians, and yet as the civil heads of Christian nations, they hold that position in society, which, as the advocates of ecclesiastical establishments, we claim for them, and acting thus during the brightest days of the Church on earth, they give us reason to pray, " that the kingdom of Christ may come,” and that such institutions, as speedily as possible, may be established. The same truth is embodied in the last three verses of the 20 Psalm,
which is more fully corroborated by the fact that those verses are applied to the period of Christ's appearance in the flesh, at the 25th verse of the 4th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles : Herod and Pontius Pilate are there coupled with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, as their respective representatives. It would be absurd, then, in the extreme, to interpret the admonition in the conclusion of this Psalm, as regarding kings only in their personal condition, as individuals, when we have the Psalm in the passage before us applied, by Peter and John, to the whole Gentile and Hebrew nations, with two of their chief magistrates, as their representative functionaries. If the rulers sinned as public men, by what rule of interpretation shall we apply the admonition addressed to them in the same Psalm, in the capacity of mere individuals? As well might the advocate of such a mode of interpretation address a minister of the Gospel thus : " Be sure to be a very pious man in your library and closet --be sure to read the Scriptures with unremitting attention and care; and take good heed that you attend to the sincere and stated exercise of your devotions in secret; but, be certain, at the same time, that you never speak a word about religion in the family in which you reside,-be eure, that if at any time they should see you reading the Bible, you close it immediately, and never open it in their presence any more than if it were a book of legerdemain or the black art,--and when you enter the pulpit, and speak to the congregation, be sure that you speak to them about any thing but the Gospel : because, although I address you as a minister of the Gospel, yet I speak to you in your private capacity, and not as a public man.” All perceive the absurdity of such a distinction in the present case; the only wonder is, that any should be so blind, or so prejudiced, as not to perceive it in the other. The kings spoken of in the 2d Psalm, must be understood as kings, and as kings commanded to do their duty; and in no other sensé whatever.
Accordingly, on the birth of Christ, we find Herod conroking the Priests and Scribes, and demanding where Christ should be born. Matt. ii. 4, 5. As if God, who bringeth good out of evil, had designed to shew, at the very commencement of the incarnation of Christ, that Christian monarchs might learn a lesson even from a despot, in consulting,
-ot for the overthrow, but,-for the advancement of the kingdom of the Messiah. The Apostle of the Gentiles, in like manner, tells us, (Rom. xiii. 4,) that the civil magistrate is "the minister of God to us for good;" and, surely, few can be so infatuated as to deny, that the establishment of the true religion is, under God, the greatest good of a State ; or, by what new code of criticism shall the adjective good be confined to be predicable of mere temporalities? The same Apostle, in his