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DISCOURSE XXXII.

THE DUTY OF PRAYING FOR GOVERNORS.

1 TIMOTHY II. 1, 2.

I exhort that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

AN exhortation from an apostle always merits attention; but more especially, when he himself assures us, that the subject of it is not of an inferior or secondary nature. "I exhort that, first of all"The person exhorting is St. Paul; the duty to which he exhorts is a capital and leading article. It is, the duty of intercession to be made by all men for all men, to manifest the love we bear for one another, as members of Him who, at the right hand of God, ever liveth to make intercession for the whole race of mankind. Our prayers are united with his, and by him offered to the Father; his merits, like the cloud of sweet incense from the altar, ascending with them to render them effectual. Effectual, in some man

ner, they must be, when rightly made; otherwise we should not have been exhorted to make them. The salutary influence produced on our own minds by a performance of the duty, has been sometimes assigned as the only reason for its being enjoined. That influence is great and salutary indeed, seeing it is impossible we should long bear ill-will to those, whom in our prayers we beseech God to bless with every kind of blessing in time and eternity. It is an excellent method, therefore, of softening the temper, and inducing a mild, merciful, and forgiving disposition in the person interceding. But to say that no benefit accrues to the person or persons for whom intercession is made, what is it but to contradict the whole tenour of Scripture, which shows us in so many instances the regard vouchsafed by Heaven to the prayers of men, and the favours granted in consequence of them? It is necessary for us to settle ourselves firmly in the belief of this point, because no man will persevere in doing that which he apprehends himself to do to no purpose. As to the manner in which the Divine Being orders and adjusts his various dispensations, we can no more comprehend it, than a fly on one of the columns of the building in which we are now assembled, can comprehend the magnificence of the whole, or the proportion of the several parts. He will certainly perform that which he has promised: how he will perform it is a consideration which belongs to him, and not to us. Proceed we, therefore, to the immediate subject of the day, namely, the duty of making intercession for kings, and for all that are in authority. The reason's 20

VOL. II.

on which this duty is founded shall be considered, as they respect God; as they respect those who govern; and as they respect those who are governed.

I. As they respect God, it would indeed be sufficient that he has enjoined the duty, even though we could assign no other reason. There is no danger lest HE should be too absolute. Whenever he commands, we have nothing to do but to obey; and we shall always find our account in it. "This"-says the apostle in the words immediately following the words of the text-"This is good and acceptable in "the sight of God our Saviour;" of God who is our Saviour, or, of our Saviour who is God; for it holds either way. But what are we, sinful men, thy unworthy servants, O Lord, that we should be sufficient to do any thing that is good and acceptable in thy sight? What are we, if, when thou art graciously pleased to say so, we should either refuse or neglect to do it?

But there is a very obvious reason why this is deemed good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour. It is an acknowledgement of his providence, his power, and his goodness of his providence, as superintending and directing the affairs of men; of his power, as being able to protect, preserve, and prosper those for whom our prayers are preferred; and of his goodness, as being willing so to protect, to preserve, and to prosper them. What the act of intercession thus implies, is expressed, with wonderful sublimity, in the daily collect for the king, when we style God, "our Lord and heavenly "Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of

over us.

lords, the only Ruler of princes, who does from his throne behold all the dwellers upon earth;" and therefore" beseech him with his favour to behold our most gracious sovereign lord," who reigns This is a noble confession of the unlimited extent, the undoubted superiority of Divine Providence; a powerful argument for confidence that we shall obtain the petitions we ask; and as powerful an argument against impeding the success of our prayers, by sinning at any time in his presence, "who from his throne does thus behold all the "dwellers upon earth." If God be on our right hand, we should suffer ourselves to be neither seduced nor terrified.

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There is yet another consideration to be urged in the case before us. When we entreat the Almighty, that he would protect and preserve government amongst us, we entreat him to protect and preserve that which is his own appointment, and by all good and conscientious men is to be obeyed as such. All power is originally and essentially in God, from him it descends to man. Pontius Pilate, about to pass sentence on the innocent Jesus, was not making a due use of his power; but even then, that power was by the innocent Jesus recognised and allowed: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, "except it were given thee from above." Accordingly by our apostle we are told, "There is no power but of God; the powers that be"-the powers subsisting" are ordained of God." So far as relates to the different modes by which, in different constitutions, rulers become invested with

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their power-so far government is, what St. Peter styles it, "an ordinance of man," regulated by human laws. But when, by rulers becoming so invested, government commences and is in force, it must be submitted to "for the Lord's sake;" not only through fear of punishment, but because God, who is the Great King over all the earth, has commanded us, for the peace of the world, and the comfort of society, to consider our governors as armed with his authority, and to be subject to them as to himself. Resistance to them will be accounted as resistance to him.

These are the plain and simple politics of the Bible; easily understood, but, like many other duties, when we are aggrieved or fancy ourselves to be aggrieved, not so easily practised. The bias of human nature, in its present state, does not draw towards obedience. A late historian, who believed equally in the Bible and the Alcoran, has observed, that no harm can arise from the circumstance of this doctrine being preached by the ministers of the Gospel; because whenever the proper time for rebellion in any nation comes, the people will always find it out without being told: the only danger is, lest they should rebel too soon, before that time arrive. We give him credit for the observation; nothing can be more certain. Let not the most sanguine advocate for liberty, who dreams constantly of the subversion of the constitution, and in the visions of the night beholds his prince becoming absolute, and preparing to ruin and murder all his subjects-let not such a one, I say, be under any apprehensions that all the

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