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DUTY TO CIVIL RULERS. Let your recreations accord with your prospects. You look forward to death, you have eternity before you. You hope to join the throng of the redeemed; to sing the anthems of heaven; to become every thing but an angel, among the angels of light; to worship before the eternal throne; to dwell with God; to live and praise among all the myriads of the blest. Should a dying man trifle away the fair day of life? Should one who expects to be judged for every hour, waste the hours which go so fast, and never must return ? Could an angel or a glorified saint sojourn a few weeks in this world, where would you expect to find him? Not in the theatre, not in the ball-room, not at the card-table, not employing the few days of his stay on novels or romances, be they ever so ingenious; but cheering by his presence the abodes of sick. ness and sorrow, or recreating his mind with admiring the works, and ways, and word of God. And do not you ex. pect to be a glorified spirit soon? Are you not already a member of the family to which glorified spirits belong? O, let even your amusements, then, comport with such hopes and such a character ! One simple rule, well observed, will lead you right. Let your amusements be such as an apostle might have partaken of, such as you will not regret in your dying moments, nor be ashamed of before the bar of the eternal Judge.
The Christian's Duty to Civil Rulers. § 12. The religion of the Bible interferes not with the great points of political controversy ; but directs its professors to pass through this world cherishing honour and respect for kings and rulers. “ Honour the king. “ Curse not the king, no not in thy thoughts."
“ Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's."w
It should be remembered, that the Christian belongs to a kingdom that is not of this world ; that his chief business here is to glorify God, to reach heaven, and take as many as he can with him to that kingdom of eternal peace. Like a traveller passing through a foreign land, he may feel an interest in observing its concerns; but is not to delay his journey for
(u) 1 Pet. ii. 17.
(v) Eccles. X. 20. (w) Matt. xxii. 21. also Rom. xiii. 1,7. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14, 17. 1 Tim. ii. 1-3.
DUTY TO CIVIL RULERS.
209 the sake of plunging into the perplexities and cares, the contentions and tumults, of its inhabitants.
Remember too that governors are, like yourselves, erring creatures, and that it is impiety, not patriotism, to behold all their actions with a jealous eye; to slander their conduct by attributing bad motives to plans that may prove mistaken however well designed; and to indulge a spirit of antipathy to them whom God commands you to respect and honour.
To be presumptuous and self-willed, and to speak evil of digi nities, are traits in the character of those who shall utterly perish in their own corruption.
$ 13. To take a warm interest in the political discussions of the day, is in many respects unsuitable to a follower of the Lamb. It is inconsistent with the character of a pilgrim, journeying to a better world. It is highly injurious to the best interests of the soul. Religion languishes or dies in the heart that is continually agitated by political subjects. No snare appears more dangerous, none more destructive to vital piety, than this. Nor has the Christian reason to expect much from a world at enmity with his Father and his Saviour. The late Mr. Scott observed, “ I trust I speak as a Christian minister, when I say, that toleration and protection are all that God's servants can reasonably expect in the devil's world. A world of which the devil is styled the god and prince. And in fact this is all they should desire.”
$ 14. The sound of liberty is often enchanting to a young mind. If you have been bewitched by this enchantment, seriously sit down and think, what liberty you wish your governors to grant you, that you do not possess. Surely not the liberty of doing ill, and as for the liberty of doing well, do
you not enjoy it as completely as you desire ? May you not go where you please, and when you please ; and, so that you injure not others, do what you please? Are you not protected in the enjoyment of your religious rights ? Would the infidel ranters after liberty afford you such protection ? Would they not rather, as they did in France, persecute the disciples of the Saviour ? Be thankful to God for your privileges and blessings, and respect the sovereign whose family has protected our religious rights for one hundred and twenty years ; and view politics but as you would view a country, through
you pass rapidly, never to see it again. You have
CHOICE OF COMPANIONS.
210 higher things to mind than the bustle of transitory states in a dying world. Leave the dwellers in the vale of this world to grovel in its mists, and fogs, and mire, and tempests; but do you press onward to that brighter world, on which eternal sunshine rests, and where all the air is love. And if disposed to be agitated and perplexed by the political questions of the day, think, What will these things be to me a hundred years hence ? and what will they be in those infinite ages
that await me, and that lie beyond the period when Britain and the world itself shall be no more?
ON THE CHOICE OF COMPANIONS AND ON MARRIAGE.
§ 1. To pass through time as a traveller to eternity, to live
as you would wish to die, is, if a Christian, your duty and happiness. Thus may you pass the gulf of death, “ by gales of blessing driven.” Thus may finish the journey of life, and enter the dwellings of the blest, with everlasting joy upon your head. Yet, till that important journey shall be finished, many are the snares that would entangle your feet, many the foes that would rob
your crown. Of all the snares to which the Christian is exposed, perhaps the most fatal, the most ruinous, are those which spring from improper companions. These are often Satan's grand and most successful instruments for entangling and finally destroying some who once bid fair for heaven.
To have no intercourse with those who are strangers to religion, is in the present state of things impracticable: “For then must you needs go out of the world."
So to seclude ourselves from the world, as to neglect op. portunities for doing good to the bodies or the souls of those
(a) 1 Cor. iv. 10.
EVIL COMPANY TO BE SHUNNED.
who may be perishing in sin around us, would be conduct opposed to both the precepts and the example of the holy Jesus.
To represent religion as dividing the bands of natural affection, as teaching the pious child not to love an ungodly parent, as separating the affections of brother and sister, wife and husband, would be a dreadful perversion of the Christian doctrine on the important subject of this chapter. Religion rather teaches its friends to embrace and seek opportunities of doing good, even to the most lost an
Rebased of their species; and inculcates upon them the strictest attention to the duties and charities of domestic life: yet, with equal plainness and solemn authority, the God of the Bible forbids his children selecting their bosom friends and intimate companions, from among those who are strangers to his grace.
§ 2. The word of God expressly forbids associating with evil companions. “ Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not. My son, walk not thou in the way with
refrain thy foot from their path." “ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ?”
As the Most High thus forbids intimate friendship between his children and the followers of the world, so his word abounds with weighty motives for obedience to these commands. It describes those as blessed who avoid irreligious associates. “ Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."d To avoid the society of the vain and worldly is represented as characteristic of real piety.e Separation from the evil is also described as necessary if we wish to walk in the paths of piety. The Psalmist said, “ Depart from me, ye wicked men; for I will keep the commandments of my God." As if he had said, I cannot keep those commandments and associate with you; but I will keep them, therefore we must part. On the other hand, to cherish intimate acquaintance with those who are strangers to religion, is
(6) Prov. iv. 14, 15; i. 10, 15. (4) Ps. i. 1.
(e) Ps. xxvi. 2, 4,5.
(c) 2 Cor. vi. 14, 17.
(f) Ps. cxix. 165.
MISCHIEFS OF EVIL COMPANY. ! represented as the way to destruction. “ A companion of fools shall be destroyed."8 And such conduct is described as meeting the divine displeasure. Thus, when the pious Jehoshaphat had contracted an unholy friendship, a prophet said to him, “ Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them who hate the Lord ? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” The history of Lot affords one of the most affecting examples possible, of the effect of evil society. When Abraham departed from his country at God's command, Lot accompanied him, and probably then was influenced by a similar spirit of devoted piety; but when, attracted by the fertility and beauty of the plain of Jordạn, he went to dwell in the cities of that plain, how dire was the result! Part of his family perished at the burning of Sodom, his only surviving daughters, infected with all the depravity of that guilty city, debased their father, by rendering him drunk, and committing with him the most atrocious incest. They became the parents of a guilty and idolatrous race, and he stands upon record, a monument of the bitter fruits of plunging into the society of the evil, for the sake of transitory worldly advantage.
$ 3. But you may inquire, What company is evil ? Not that only of the profligate and profane, of the dissolute and abandoned; but that of all those who are strangers to vital piety. The vain, giddy, thoughtless multitude, who disregard the interests of eternity, and live without God in the world, however moral in their conduct, or amiable in their manners, are associates that would be ruinous to your best interests.
There is no snare by which young professors of religion are more likely to be undone than by this. To urge you therefore to shun this snare, consider its numerous evils. Consider that evil company is the root of all evil.
Should you make any that are strangers to religion your bosom friends, you will most probably soon become like them. If they are lewd and debauched, they will lead you to the same guilty excesses. Though at first your soul may tremble at their abominations, you will soon join in their revelry, and partake of their crimes. If they are scoffers and infidels, though you may think your faith too firm to be shaken, you will soon find your confidence weaken, your (g) Prov. xiii. 20.
() 2 Chron. xix. 1, 2,