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their parent's conduct and commands be liable to just exception.
III. We are expressly required to pay tribute and custom, for the support of government. Our Lord taught the Jews to " render to Cesar the things which "were Cesar's," as well as " to God the things which *' were God's:" though Judea became subject to the Roman emperors by conquest, which is perhaps the worst of all tides to authority. The apostle gave the same instruction to christians,* though many iniquitous and oppressive taxes were imposed by the emperors and their deputies, which were collected with most grievous extortion, to the enriching of a few individuals beyond modern conception, and to the impoverishing of millions. But no exception was made on that account: for christians ought very little to regard such matters; they should be satisfied with their better portion even under persecution; and be very thankful for religious liberty, though hardly dealt with in other things. As government cannot be supported without great expence, and as it produces such immense advantages to us; so the payment of taxes is as necessary to strict probity, as the discharge of other debts; nor can it consist with a good conscience, in any way or degree, to defraud the revenue, or to share in the plunder of those who do. All evasion in this matter involves in it much prevarication and disingenuousness: some kinds of it countenance a set of men whose principles and conduct are inimical in the extreme to
ffce peace of the community: and as the government will be sure by one tax or other to raise the requisite sums, so be who firandently withholds a part of his quota constrains his more conscientious neighbour to pay it fcr hint: bow then does be lore him as himself? or do to others as he would they should do to him?
To areue that taxes legally imposed are not due, because they are partial and excessive, involves the absurdity before developed; for who does not fed a disposition to object to that tax, which bears hard on himself? or who, almost, would pay taxes adequate to the publick emergencies under the most frugal administration, if every one might, determine for himself which taxes were equal and proper to be paid, and which were not? On such a plan no government on earth could be conducted: and where shall we draw the line? —In fact, when taxes are really partial and oppressive, legal methods may be used to get them reduced, changed » or taken off: but till this can be done, i: behoves us. to bear the cross with meekness and pacace; to pay them punctually, and to use no fraudulent mrthods of obtaining relief from our burdens.
IV. It is our indispensable duty to honour our rulers, and to behave with respect and deference towards them.* This certainly forbids us to accuse them falsely, to ridicule their real or supposed; infirmities, or to endeavour to bring their characters and authority into contempt: nor can it consist even with mentioning their faults or mistakes without necessitv, or in order to de
• 1 Petii. 17.
grade them in the publick opinion. Our sentiments of men and measures are not always in our own power; but the external expression of them should be restrained or regulated by propriety, and the nature of our relation to them. A dutiful son may greatly disapprove of some things in the conduct of his father: but will he circulate the report in order to expose him? will he industriously hold him up to contempt, ridicule, and reproach? will he not rather endeavour to conceal, or palliate, his misconduct, or contrast it with his virtues? —and if this be impracticable, will he not be deeply concerned for his disgrace? (after the approved conduct of Shem and Japheth, and not after that of undutiful Ham.)* Such ought to be our conduct towards those whom the providence of God hath placed in authority over us, and whom his word hath commanded us to honour. He hath made no exception to this precept on account of the real or supposed criminality of rulers, for this obvious reason, that no ruler can possiblv be found whose conduct would not afford a factious person an handle for obloquy and derision: even as no parent can behave so well but that an undutiful son will find something to object to, or turn to ridicule.
Indeed imagination can scarcely form an idea of worse rulers than they who possessed the authority when these commands were given: yet even in such circumstances the more holy men are, the less disposed will they be " to bring against them a railing "accusation;"! which Michael the archangel would not
do even against the devil himself, so that “speaking “evil of dignities, and despising dominion,” is contrary to the holiness of angels, the precepts of scripture, the example of Christ, and the practice of the primitive church when groaning under the most cruel persecution. But if this be so unchristian when rulers are manifestly iniquitous and oppressive, it must be still more inexcusable when their conduct and administration are upon the whole commendable: this accords to scarcely any example in scripture, except that of Korah and his company, and that of the vile antinomians whom Peter and Jude so strenuously opposed. Who would think that his son honoured him, if he allowed his tongue and pen that unbridled licence, in animadverting on all his actions, which even some, “who “seem to be religious,” use concerning their civil governors? Yet the command to honour the king, is as express, as that to honour father and mother; and as obligatory on every man's conscience. V. We are expressly required to “pray for kings, “and all that are in authority.”* When this command was given, the civil governors were heathens, tyrants, and persecutors: yet, as the captive Jews were directed to pray for the peace of Babylon, that in the peace of that city they might have peace,—so christians were instructed to pray for their rulers, that they might “ lead “a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and hon“esty;” for “the king's heart is in the hand of the “Lord,” and it may be expected that in answer to the
prayers of his people lie will influence him to adopt salutary measures. So that a wise regard to the peace of the church and the publick welfare, as well as goodwill to the persons of princes, will always dictate sincere and fervent prayers for blessings, spiritual and temporal, on their persons and families, and for success to all their measures; except we evidently perceive them to be engaged in unjustifiable and pernicious undertakings; and then, instead of expressing our disapprobation in virulent invectives, or bitter complaints, we should earnestly intreat the Lord to withdraw them from their purpose, and to dispose them to hearken to more salutary counsels. Indeed, when this duty is conscientiously performed from the heart, it has a powerful tendency to calm our spirits, and to render us averse to turbulent opposition; and it is by far the most becoming and efficacious weapon of our warfare, though too little made use of.
VI. We are commanded "to study," or to be ambitious, "to be quiet, and to mind our own busi"ness;" "to be content with such things as we "have;" "to fear God and the king, and not to med*' die with those who are given to change;" to consider " that we have here no continuing city," for the christian's " citizenship is in heaven;" that "we are "strangers and pilgrims on earth;" that "in the world "we must have tribulation," let who will govern it; that we must not love the world, or any of its idolized possessions, distinctions, or enjoyments; and that we must "not mind high things," or "seek them" for ourselves.
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