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SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
ST, MATTHEw v. 16.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
THERE has lately been issued by our Sovereign Lady the Queen a proclamation, a copy of which has been affixed to every church door throughout the kingdom. And the object of that proclamation is, as stated at its head, “The Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and the Prevention of Vice, Profaneness, and Immorality.”
And why, think you, should our Queen put forth such a proclamation ? Because she has a due regard for her people's welfare, and a lively sense of her duty to God.— Because, as she here tells us, she desires “above all things to preserve and advance the honour and service of Almighty God, and to discourage and suppress vice and wickedness, which are so highly displeasing to God, and so great a reproach to our religion and government.” In other words, the proclamation is a public manifestation by our Queen of the principles by which she governs—a witness to us that she rules “ in the fear of God”—that, “knowing whose minister she is,” she seeks above all things God's honour and glory, and studies to preserve His people committed to her charge in wealth, peace, and godliness.
Such a manifesto must not be regarded as a mere form. As loyal subjects it is surely our duty to give ear when our Sovereign addresses us. And that is the reason why I have ventured to bring her words before you this morning.
The object of the proclamation is, I have said, to promote piety and virtue, and to discourage vice and ungodliness. Let us notice by what means it is sought to bring about these most desirable ends.
And for this I must read one or two clauses from the proclamation. The Queen says—“ We do strictly enjoin and prohibit all our loving subjects, of what degree or quality soever, from playing on the Lord's Day at dice, cards, or any other game whatsoever in public or private houses; and we do hereby require and command our subjects, them and every of them, decently and reverently to attend the worship of God on every Lord's Day.”—Not, you will observe, now and then, but “on every Lord's Day.”—Further on, the Queen charges all who are in authority—“ judges, mayors, sheriffs, justices of peace, and all other officers and ministers, to be very vigilant and strict in the discovery, prosecution, and punishment of all persons who shall be guilty of dissolute, immoral, and disorderly practice”—especially are they to take care to prevent persons “ keeping taverns or other public houses, from selling wine, beer, or other liquors, or receiving or permitting guests to remain in their houses in the time of Divine Service, on the Lord's Day."
These are some of the chief matters in the Queen's proclamation—but more important than all, is that follows—“ We do expect and require that all persons of honour, or in place of authority, will give good example by their own virtue and piety, and to their utmost contribute to the discountenancing persons of wicked immoral life.”
You will observe that the force on which our Queen relies for carring out her good desires for the growth of righteousness in her people, is, the force of good example. What she says to us above is in effect what our Lord commands us in the text-Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And, brethren, when our gracious Queen thus appeals to her subjects to “give a good example,” it should be remembered that she herself goes before us in this : she herself gives us all a good example.
It would be out of place here perhaps to do more than just allude to this. But it is a matter fondly dwelt upon by thousands and ten thousands of her people.
None of us may have ever seen the Queen. But which of us has not heard of her blameless life of her pure court ? of her diligence in the discharge of business? of the care she has to bring up her children well? of her attention to religious duties, her regular attendance on God's public worship, her partaking of the Holy Sacrament? the sympathy she shews towards those in affliction ? the ready and constant interest she takes in the
welfare of all orders and degrees among her subjects ?
I have but to hint at this, seeing it is happily so well known and recognised.—And most thankful should we feel for it-most thankful that the person in the highest place in this country, whose conduct must of necessity have the widest and farthest influence, is one who thus, in all things, shews us a pattern of good works—one who walks herself in the narrow way-goes before her subjects in the faith and fear of God-lets her light so shine before men that they may all see it, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.
Yes, you will all say it, it is indeed a matter of thankfulness that England's throne is filled as it is—well may we be proud of such a Queen ! well may we pray that God would“ grant her in health and wealth long to live!” For, while she reigns, nothing we feel will be wanting, as far as her single great example can go, for correcting what is evil, and maintaining and advancing pure and undefiled religion in the land.
But, brethren, the example of our Queen ought to be not only admired, but also imitated—what she does in her high seat, we her subjects ought to strive and do, each in that place where God's providence has fixed him, we, too, ought“ to give good example."
No doubt those of rank and station,-those, too, in authority, are more particularly bound to attend to this. Because being raised up above their fellows, what they do is more observed. And, therefore, in the Queen's proclamation these are the persons immediately appealed to.
But let no one think he is not concerned to set a good
example, because he is of a humble degree in life. The power and responsibility of setting an example belongs assuredly to us all. Every one of us, rich or poor, high or low, in what he says and does daily, sets an example to some other—not always a good example—but an example of some kind, an example which is copied to the harm or benefit of the imitator. For example, we say it proverbially, is more powerful than precept—more is done by a good life in advancing godliness among our brethren, than by the most eloquent words about goodness: and the best advice in the world is lost and disregarded, when not supported by the practice of those who speak it. We all know that it is so—we all know how much we are influenced ourselves, how much we influence others by example. Then let the words of our Queen that we have heard, be borne in mind. Let us all be careful to give a good example—let each try to exhibit in his own life that Christian behaviour, that honest and orderly conversation which becometh the Gospel—let us take care that none offend, or are made weak through us: but rather that all with whom we have to do may, by what they shall behold in us, be helped and cheered in their efforts to serve God acceptably, and to do good. If the time allowed I might follow the subject into particulars, and point out where, and in what manner, most of us have it in our power to give a good example. I will name but one or two instances before I conclude. Is the Sabbath Day neglected where you live? Do those who dwell around you spend that day in idleness,