« Prev Sermon XXXVI. The peculiar care and concern of… Next »

The peculiar care and concern of Providence for the protection and defence of kings,

SET FORTH IN

A SERMON

PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY,

NOVEMBER 5, 1675.


Psalm cxliv. 10.

It is he that giveth salvation unto kings.

THE greatest and most magnificent title, by which God exhibits himself to the sons of men, is, that he is King of kings, and that the governors of the earth are his subjects, princes and emperors his vassals, and thrones his footstools; and consequently that there is no absolute monarch in the world but one. And from the same also it follows, that there is nothing, which subjects can justly expect from their prince, but princes may expect from God; and nothing which princes demand from their subjects, but God, in a higher manner and by a better claim, requires from them. Now the relation between prince and subject essentially involves in it these two things:

First, Obedience from the subject to all the laws and just commands of his prince. And accordingly, as kings themselves have a sovereign over them, so they have laws over them too: laws which lay the 548same obligation upon crowned heads, that they do upon the meanest peasant: for no prerogative can bar piety: no man is too great to be bound to be good. He who wields the sceptre, and shines in the throne, has a great account to make, and a great Master to make it to: and there is no man sent into the world to rule, who is not sent also to obey.

Secondly. The other thing imported in this relation, is protection vouchsafed from the sovereign to the subject. Upon which account it is. that as God with one hand gives a law, so with the other he defends the obedient. And this is the highest prerogative of worldly empire, and the brightest jewel in the diadems of princes, that by being God’s immediate subjects they are his immediate care, and entitled to his more especial protection; that they have both an omniscience, in a peculiar manner, to wake over them, and an omnipotence to support them; and that they are not the legions which they command, but the God whom they obey, who must both guard their persons and secure their regalia. For it is he, and he only, who giveth salvation unto kings.

The words of the text, with a little variation, run naturally into this one proposition, which, containing in it the full sense of them, shall be the subject of our following discourse, viz.

That God in the government of the world exercises a peculiar and extraordinary providence over the persons and lives of princes.

The prosecution of which proposition shall lie in these four things.

First, To shew upon what account any act of God’s providence may be said to be peculiar and extraordinary.

549

Secondly, To shew how and by what means God does after such an extraordinary manner save and deliver princes.

Thirdly, To shew the reasons why he does so. And,

Fourthly and lastly, To draw something by way of inference and conclusion from the whole.

Of all which in their order: and,

First, for the first of these; which is to shew upon what account any act of God’s providence may be said to be peculiar and extraordinary. Providence in the government of the world acts for the most part by the mediation of second causes: which, though they proceed according to a principle of nature, and a settled course and tenor of acting, (supposing still the same circumstances,) yet Providence acting by them may, in several instances of it, be said to be extraordinary, upon a threefold account: as,

First, When a thing falls out besides the common and usual operation of its proper cause. As for in stance, it is usual and natural for a man meeting his enemy upon full advantage, to prosecute that advantage against him, and by no means to let him escape: yet sometimes it falls out quite otherwise. Esau had conceived a mortal grudge and enmity against his brother Jacob; yet as soon as he meets him, he falls upon him in a very different way from that of enemies, and embraces him. Ahab having upon conquest got Benhadad, his inveterate enemy, into his hands, not only spares his life, but treats him kindly, and lets him go. That a brother unprovoked should hate, and a stranger not obliged should love, is against the usual actings of the heart of man. 550Yet thus it was with Joseph, and no doubt with many others. In which, and the like cases, I conceive, things so falling out, may be said to come to pass by an extraordinary act of Providence; it being manifest, that the persons concerned in them do not act, as men of the same principles and interests under the same circumstances use to do. For interest, we say, will not lie, nor make a man false to himself, whatsoever it may make him to others.

Secondly. Providence may be said to act extraordinarily, when a thing falls out beside or contrary to the design of expert, politic, and shrewd persons, contriving or acting in it. As when a man by the utmost of his wit and skill projects the compassing of such or such a thing, fits means to his end, lays antecedents and consequents directly and appositely for the bringing about his purpose; but in the issue and result finds all broke a and baffled, and the event contrary to his intention; and the order of causes and counsels so studiously framed by him, to produce an effect opposite to, and destructive of, the design driven at by those means and arts. In this case also, I say, we may rationally acknowledge an extraordinary act of Providence: forasmuch as the man himself is made instrumental to the effecting of some thing perfectly against his own will and judgment, and that by those very ways and methods which in themselves were the most proper to prevent, and the most unlikely to bring to pass, such an event. The world all the while standing amazed at it, and the credit of the politician sinking: for that nothing seems to cast so just a reproach even upon reason itself, as for persons noted for it to act as notably against it.

551

Thirdly and lastly. Providence may be said to act in an extraordinary way, when a thing comes to pass visibly and apparently beyond the power of the cause immediately employed in it. As that a man dumb all his life before, should on the sudden speak: as it is said that the son of Croesus did, upon the sight of a murder ready to have been committed upon the person of his prince and father. That a small company should rout and scatter an army, or (in the language of scripture) that one should chase an hundred, and an hundred put ten thousand to flight. That persons of mean parts, and little or no experience, should frustrate and overreach the counsels of old, beaten, thoroughpaced politicians. These effects, I say, are manifestly above the ability and stated way of working belonging to the causes from whence they flow. Nevertheless such things are sometimes seen upon the great stage of the world, to the wonder and astonishment of the beholders, who are wholly unable, by the common method and discourses of reason, to give a satisfactory account of these strange phenomena, by resolving them into any thing visible in their immediate agents: in which case, therefore, I conceive, that the whole order and connection of these things one with another, may be reckoned an act of Providence extraordinary.

And thus much for the first general thing proposed, which was to shew upon what account the works of Providence come to be thus distinguished: which consideration it will be easy for every one to make application of to the ensuing particulars. I proceed now to the

Second general thing proposed; which is to shew, 552How and by what means God does after such an extraordinary manner save and deliver princes.

I shall mention seven.

1. By endowing them with a more than ordinary sagacity and quickness of understanding above other men. Kings, they say, have a long reach with their arm, but they have a further with their mind. In 1 Kings iv. 29, God is said to have given Solomon largeness of heart, even as the sand on the seashore. And in Prov. xxv. 3, the heart of kings is said to be unsearchable. In the former text the royal mind is compared to the sand on the seashore for compass, and in this latter it may seem to vie with the sea itself for depth. And does not this day’s solemnity give us an eminent proof of this? For when this horrid conspiracy, contrived in hell and darkness, was conveyed to one of the confederates under the shelter of an equivocal writing, our apprehensive and quickscented king presently smoked the ambiguous paper, and sounding the depths of the black intrigue, found that at the bottom of it, which few mortals besides (though of the quickest faculties) could have discovered from it, who had not had their conjectures alarmed by some glimmerings of light into that dark project before. Such a piercing judgment does God often give to these his deputies: a judgment which looks into, or rather through and through all others, but is looked into by none.

And there is nothing that both adorns and secures a prince comparably to this discerning faculty: for by this, as by a great light kindling many others, he commands the use of the best understandings and 553judgments throughout his dominions, calling them to his council, and so seeing with their eyes, apprehending and contriving with their heads; all their knowledge and experience, like rivers paying tribute to the ocean, being conveyed into and swallowed up in his royal breast. It is both the safety and felicity of a prince to have a wise council, but it must be his own wisdom which provides him one. Wisdom is a noble quality, and not discernible but by itself. It is art that must judge of art; and he who discovers wisdom in another, must do it by the idea he first had of it in his own brain. Now as the first and chief external safeguard of a prince is in his council, and as it is his discerning faculty which must furnish him with this, so his next safety is in the choice of his friends: and it is the same discerning faculty which must secure him here too. For it is this that must distinguish between friendship and flattery, the most baneful mischief that can be practised by one man upon another; and shadows do not more inseparably follow bodies, than flattery does the persons of great men. Flatterers are the bosom enemies of princes, laying trains for them, not at all less destructive than that which was discovered this day; contriving their ruin acceptably, pleasingly, and according to their own hearts desire. Poison has frequently destroyed kings, but none has been so efficaciously mortal as that drank in by the ear. He who meets his enemy in the field, knows how to encounter him; but he who meets him at his table, in his chamber, or in his closet, finds his enemy got within him before he is aware of him, killing him with smiles and kisses, and acting the assassinate 554under the masquerade of a counsellor or a confident: the surest, but the basest way of destroying a man.

But now, it is the prince’s wisdom and discerning spirit, that must be his rescue from the plots of this friendly traitor. It is a most remarkable speech of Solomon, Prov. xx. 8, that the king sitting on the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eye. And the nature of this evil is peculiarly such, that to discover, is to defeat it. It is a work of darkness, which the light never looks upon, but it scatters too.

Nothing is so notable in the royal bird, the eagle, as the quickness of his eye. The sight is the sense of empire and command; that which is always first, and leads the way in every great action: for so far as a prince sees, so far properly he rules; and while he keeps his eye open, and his breast shut, he cannot be surprised.

And thus much for the first way by which Providence saves and delivers princes; namely, by endowing them with a more than ordinary sagacity and quickness of understanding above other men.

2. God saves and delivers sovereign princes by giving them a singular courage and presence of mind in cases of difficulty and danger. As soon as ever the sacred oil had anointed Saul king, it is said, 1 Sam. x. 9, that God gave him another heart; that is, a great and a kingly spirit, raising his thoughts above the common level and designs of a private condition. And a little after, when there was a general consternation over all Israel, upon the invasion of the Ammonites, though the report of it 555met Saul in his former mean employment, coming from the field after his father’s herd; yet it is said, in the 11th chapter of the same book, and verse 6, that the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard these tidings; that is, the royal spirit, which he had received at his anointing, then began to stir and act, and flame out like itself; taking him presently from following an herd, and putting him in the head of an army. It is incredible to consider the motion of some minds upon the sudden surprise of danger; and how much in such cases some will even outact themselves; how much quicker their wit is to invent, and their courage to execute, than at other times. Tullus Hostilius, in the midst of a battle, surprised with the treachery of Metius Suffetius falling off with a great part of his army to the enemy, cries out to his soldiers, that it was by his order, and thereby confirmed their hearts from fainting through the apprehension of treachery, into a present and glorious victory, by their supposing it a contrived stratagem.

Next to wisdom, the greatest gift of Heaven is resolution. It is that which gives and obtains kingdoms, that turns swords into sceptres, that crowns the valiant with victory, and the victorious often with a diadem. It was answered by a neighbouring prince to one alleging a flaw in the title of Henry VII. to the kingdom of England, that he had three of the best titles to his kingdom of any prince living; being the wisest prince, the valiantest prince, and the richest prince in Christendom.

Presence of mind to get out of a plunge, and upon the sudden to unravel the knots and intricacies of a perplexed business, argues a head and a heart made 556for great things. It is a kind of ecstasy and inspiration, a beam of divine light darting in upon reason, and exalting it to a pitch of operation beyond its natural and accustomed measures; and perhaps there was never any person in the world remarkably and heroically great, without some such kind of enthusiasm; that is,, such a mighty principle, as at certain times raised him up to strange unaccountable heights of wit and courage. And therefore whosoever he is, who in the strength of such a spirit can look the most menacing dangers in the face, and when the state of all things about him seems desperate can yet bear his great heart above despair, such an one for the most part makes fortune itself bend and fall down to him, difficulties vanish, and dangers fly before him; so much is victory the claim of the valiant, and success the birthright of the bold. And this is the second way by which Providence gives salvation unto kings.

3. God saves and delivers sovereign princes, by disposing of events and accidents, in a strange concurrence for their advantage and preservation. No thing indeed is or can be properly accidental to God; but accidents are so called in respect of the intention or expectation of second causes; when things fall out beside their knowledge or design. And there is nothing in which Providence so much triumphs over, and, as I may so say, laughs at the profoundest wisdom of men, as in the stable, certain knowledge and disposal of all casual events. In respect of which, the clearest mortal intellect is wholly in the dark. And upon this account, as loose as these events seem to hang upon one another, yet they are all knit and linked together in a firm chain, 557and the highest link of that chain, as the poets speak most truly and philosophically, (though in a fable,) is fastened to Jupiter’s chair; that is, it is held and managed by an unerring Providence: the chain indeed may wave and shake this way and that way, but still the hand that holds it is steady, and the eye that guides it infallible.

Now nothing has so powerful an influence upon the great turns of affairs, and the lives and fortunes of great persons, as the little, unobserved, unprotected events of things. For could any thing be greater than the preservation of a great prince and his next heir to the crown, together with his nobles and the chief of his clergy, from certain, imminent, and prepared destruction? And was not all this effected by a pitiful small accident in the mistake of the superscription of a letter? Did not the oversight of one syllable preserve a church and a state too? And might it not be truly said of that contemptible paper, that it did Caesarem vehere et fortunam Caesaris, and that the fate of three kingdoms was wrapt and sealed up in it?

A little error of the eye, a misguidance of the hand, a slip of the foot, a starting of an horse, a sudden mist, or a great shower, or a word undesignedly cast forth in an army, has turned the stream of victory from one side to another, and thereby disposed of the fortunes of empires and whole nations. No prince ever returns safe out of a battle, but may remember how many blows and bullets1717   See a late signal instance of this in a prince, “who had his shoulder so kindly kissed by a cannon bullet,” (as the late archbishop, by a peculiar strain of rhetoric, expresses this wonderful passage in his sermon at court, upon Jeremiah ix. 23, 24. page 34.) For well indeed might it pass for wonderful; the salutes from the mouth of a cannon being commonly so boisterous, that they seldom kiss, but they kill too. have gone by 558him, that might as easily have gone through him, and by what little odd unforeseeable chances death has been turned aside, which seemed in a full, ready, and direct career to have been posting to him. All which passages, if we do not acknowledge to have been guided to their respective ends and effects by the conduct of a superior and a divine hand, we do by the same assertion cashier all providence, strip the Almighty of his noblest prerogative, and make God, not the governor, but the mere spectator of the world. And thus much for the third way. The

Fourth, by which God saves and delivers sovereign princes, is by wonderfully inclining the hearts and wills of men to a benign affection towards them. Hearts and wills are things that princes themselves cannot command, and yet the only things in the strength of which they do command. For the heart is the grand spring of action, and he who governs that part, does by consequence command the whole. But now this is the incommunicable prerogative of God; who, and who only, can either by power or by knowledge reach the heart. For as it is said, Prov. xxi. 1, that the heart of the king is in God’s hand, and that as the rivers of water he turneth it which way soever he will; so are the hearts of the people too; which, like a mighty stream or torrent, he turns this way or that way, according to the wise counsels of his providence. For if he intends to advance a prince, they shall be a stream to 559bear him up from sinking; if to forsake or ruin a prince, they shall overflow, and swell, and rush in upon him with such a furious, ungoverned tide, as no power or arts of state shall be able to divert or to withstand. God can turn the hearts of a nation suddenly and irresistibly. He has done so more than once or twice, and may do so again.

Thus for instance, when David fled before Absalom, and was forced to leave the royal city, it was the general affection of his people (God touching their hearts) which brought him back, and resettled him in his throne; so that, in 2 Sam. xix. 14, it is said of him, that he bowed the hearts of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man; so that they sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants. And just such another message did the lords and commons of England send our banished David in the year sixty. For what was it else which so gloriously restored the king? Plots were nothing, and foreign assistance less than nothing. It was an universal, invincible current of the people’s wills and affections, that bore down all those mountains of opposition, which so many years had been raising up against him, and at length (in spite of guilt and malice) brought him in free and unshackled, absolute and victorious over the heads of his armed enemies. It was his people’s hearts which made their hands useless to his restoration.

On the other side, when the greatest part of the kingdom was rent from the house of David, and transferred to Jeroboam, in 1 Kings xii. 24, the prophet expressly tells them, that this thing was from God; that is, he, by a secret overruling energy upon the hearts and affections of the people, took 560them off from one, and inclined and carried them over to the other. And it is often by this alone, that the great Lord of lords and Controller of monarchs putteth down one, and setteth up another. He can raise armies of hearts to drive any king out of his kingdom without striking a stroke; as on the contrary, where he intends to own and support the royal estate of any monarch, he shall set him up a throne in every one of his subjects breasts. So that, according to that scripture-expression, their desire shall be to him, and he shall rule over them. And certainly where affection binds, allegiance must needs be very easy; and a pleasant thing to rule, where there is no heart to resist.

5. God saves and delivers sovereign princes by rescuing them from unseen and unknown mischiefs prepared against them. This is most evident: for if a prince’s own observation can bear witness to many deliverances vouchsafed him by Providence, Providence itself can certainly bear witness to many more which he is wholly ignorant of. Forasmuch as in every man, but especially in princes, their concerns reach further, and carry a wider compass, than their knowledge can: it being impossible that any man living should know all that is spoken or done concerning him, and consequently be aware of all the mischievous blows levelled against him. How many secret cabals and plots have been against the reputation, the interest, and sometimes the life also of every considerable person in the world, which never yet came to their eye or their ear, nor (thanks to the care of a guardian Providence) ever troubled so much as a thought, nor hurt so much as an hair of their head! And yet the contrivers of them have wanted neither 561will, nor wit, nor power (the natural force of causes considered) to add execution to intention, and to give fire to their trains, and efficacy to their cursed projects, had not an invisible, overswaying power baffled and disappointed all the artifices of their malice, and stifled the base conception before the birth.

And this is a way of deliverance so eminent for the mercy of it, that if a prince or great person can be obliged to Providence for any, it must be for this. For when a man knows the danger he is in, all his senses quickly take the alarm, call up the spirits, and arm his courage to meet the approaching evil, and to defend himself. But when he knows nothing of the impending mischief, he lies open and defence less, like a man bound, and naked, and sleeping, while a dagger is directed to his breast. And for a merciful tender Providence then to step in to his assistance, to ward off the fatal blow, and to turn the approaching edge from his unguarded heart, this surely is the height of mercy, and engrosses the glory of the deliverance wholly to the divine goodness, without allowing any mortal wit or courage the least share or concurrence in it. No prince can tell what the discontents of ill subjects, the emulation of neighbour states or princes have been designing, endeavouring, and projecting against him: all which counsels, by a controlling power from above, have from time to time been made abortive and frustraneous. Let princes, therefore, reckon upon this, and know assuredly, that they stand indebted to Providence for more deliverances than they can know. And if the protecting mercies of Heaven thus surpass their knowledge, surely it is but reason that their 562sense of them and gratitude for them should surmount expression.

Sixthly. God saves and delivers sovereign princes by imprinting a certain awe and dread of their persons and authority upon the minds of their subjects. And there is not any one thing which seems so manifestly to prove government a thing perfectly divine, both as to its original and continuance in the world, as this. For what is there in any one mortal man that can strike a dread into, and command a subjection from, so many thousands as every prince almost has under his government, should things be rated according to the mere natural power of second causes? For the strength of one man can do nothing against so many; and his wisdom and counsel but little more: and those who are to obey him know so much; and yet for all that, they yield him absolute subjection, dread his threatenings, tremble at his frowns, and lay their necks under his feet. Now from whence can all this be, but from a secret work of the divine power, investing sovereign princes with certain marks and rays of that divine image, which overawes and controls the spirits of men they know not how nor why? But yet they feel themselves actually wrought upon and kept under by them, and that very frequently against their will.

And this is that properly which in kings we call majesty, and which no doubt is a kind of shadow or portraiture of the divine authority drawn upon the looks and persons of princes, which makes them commanders of men’s fears, and thereby capable of governing them in all their concerns. Non fero fulgur oculorum tuorum, is the language of every subject’s heart, struck with the awful aspect of a resolute 563and magnanimous prince. There is a majesty in his countenance that puts lightning into his looks and thunder into his words. In Dan. v. 19, it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that God gave him such a majesty, that all people, nations, and languages trembled before him. When Alexander the Great found his whole army in a mutiny, and resolute not to march forward, but to return to their own country, against any arguments or persuasions that he could use, he 1818   At the same time uttering these words, (so suitable to his kingly mind and courage,) Jam scietis, et quantum sine rege valeat exercitus, et quid opis in me uno sit. Quint. Curtius, lib. x.leaps down from the place upon which he had been speaking to them and arguing with them, and laying hold of thirteen of the most forward and violent mutineers, causes them to be bound hand and foot, (in the face of his whole army looking on,) and then thrown into the sea. All which this terrible and victorious army, to which he himself owed his greatness, and which but even now was upon such high and daring terms with him, quietly sees and suffers, and with a sneaking abject behaviour return to their tents, as if a lion had charged and chased a flock of sheep into their folds. Nay, the history says further, that they were fearful and solicitous, and inquisitive what the king meant to do with the rest of them. By which and the like passages, kings may see what they are, and what they may do, if they will but own their high office with an equal courage, and be true to that sovereignty and character which God has stamped upon them. Alexander, as great as he was, was but one man: but he was a prince, and as such acted by a commission from heaven, as one of the Almighty’s vicegerents, and upon that account able 564to encounter as well as to lead his army. A king, acting as a king, has all the power of heaven to bear him out; the stars in their courses shall fight for him; the angels are his guards, and the Lord of hosts their captain. And this is the sixth way by which God saves and delivers princes; namely, by the authority and majesty of their persons.

7. In the seventh and last place. God saves and delivers sovereign princes, by disposing their hearts to such virtuous and pious courses, as he has promised a blessing to, and by restraining them from those ways to which he has denounced a curse. And this is the greatest deliverance of all; as having a prospect upon the felicity of both worlds, and laying a foundation for all other deliverances. For it is this that qualifies and renders a man a subject capable of and fit for a deliverance. King Abimelech was about to do an action that would certainly have drawn death and confusion after it: Thou art but a dead man, says God to him, in Gen. xx. 3. But preventing grace snatched him from the brink of destruction, and delivered him from death by restraining him from the sin: I withheld thee, says God in the 6th, from sinning against me. See the force of princely piety in the person of Hezekiah. God tells him that he should die, and bids him prepare for it. But piety is stronger than death, and reverses the fatal edict. The Assyrians invade his kingdom, and take his fenced cities, but how does he withstand them? Why, he puts on sackcloth for his armour; and it was neither the valour nor the number of his troops, but the prayer of Hezekiah, and the irresistible force of a king fighting upon his knees, that routed Sennacherib.

565

Virtue entitles a prince to all the mercies of heaven, all the favours, all the endearments of Providence. It has a present and a future influence; one upon his person, the other upon his posterity. So that in 1 Kings xi. when God declared his purpose to remove the kingdom from the house of Solomon, for all his idolatries and abominations, yet in the 34th verse he says, Howbeit I will make him king all the days of his life, for my servant David’s sake, because he kept my commandments and my statutes. And in the 32d verse he declares, that his son after him should have one tribe for his servant David’s sake. Nay, the piety of a king diffuses a blessing and a protection upon the whole kingdom: for how often, upon the provocations of Judah, did the memory of David’s piety, as it were, disarm the divine vengeance, and interpose between them and the destroying sentence! So that, in the second book of Kings, it is said three several times, upon three several remarkable occasions, that God would not destroy Judah and Jerusalem for his servant David’s sake. And who knows but the piety, the virtues, and the Christian sufferings of the late martyred king, may be one great preservative of the present peace of this wretched and ungrateful nation? So that when God lately sent his destroying angel, with his drawn sword, over Poland, Germany, Holland, and other countries, he has looked upon the blood of that royal martyr shed for the rights and liberties of his kingdoms, and bid the destroying angel pass over England, and draw no more blood there, where the memory of that sacred blood had made such an atonement and expiation, and cried aloud for mercy upon all, even those that shed it not 566excepted. Certain it is, that the virtues of a prince are a blessing to more than to himself and his family. They are a public seminary of blessings; they are the palladiums and the strong holds, nay the common stock and the inheritance of the kingdom, and, in a word, an exchequer that can never be shut up.

And thus much for the second general thing proposed, which was to shew the several ways and means by which God does, after such an extraordinary manner, save and deliver sovereign princes: all which, for memory’s sake, it may not be amiss to rehearse and sum up in short: as, namely, he delivers them,

1. By endowing them with a more than ordinary sagacity and quickness of understanding above other men.

2. By giving them a singular courage and presence of mind in cases of difficulty and danger.

3. By disposing of events and accidents in a strange concurrence for their advantage and preservation.

4. By wonderfully inclining the hearts and wills of men to a benign affection towards them.

5. By rescuing them from unseen and unknown mischiefs prepared against them.

6. By imprinting a certain awe and dread of their persons and authority upon the minds of the people.

7. Seventhly and lastly. By disposing their hearts to such virtuous and pious courses as God has promised a blessing to, and by restraining them from those ways to which he has denounced a curse. And these are the several ways by which Providence gives salvation unto kings.

I proceed now to the

Third general thing proposed, which is to shew 567the reasons why Providence is so much concerned in the salvation and deliverance of kings: which that we may the better do, we must know, that there are two things by which God supports the societies of mankind, which he will certainly maintain and preserve, as long as he suffers the world to last, and men to live in it; and these are government and religion; which being so, I suppose, we need allege no other reason for God’s peculiar care over the persons and lives of sovereign princes, if we demonstrate,

1. That they are the greatest instruments in the hand of Providence to support government and civil society in the world. And,

2. That they have the most powerful influence upon the concerns of religion and the preservation of the church, of all other persons whatsoever.

And first for the first of these; That kings are the greatest instruments in the hand of Providence to support government and civil society in the world: the proof of which, I conceive, will be fully made out by these two things.

1. By shewing that monarchy, or kingly government, is the most excellent and best adapted to the ends of government and the benefit of society. And,

2. That the greatness or strength of a monarchy depends chiefly upon the personal qualifications of the prince or monarch.

1. And first, let us shew that monarchy or kingly government is the most excellent and best adapted to the ends of government and the benefit of society. This is too large and noble a subject to be fully managed in such a discourse. At present let it suffice to say, that monarchy, in the kind of government, is the first, and consequently the most perfect of all 568other sorts. It is an image of the divine supremacy, man’s imitation of Providence, a copy of God’s government of the universe in a lesser draught. For the world has but one sovereign ruler, as well as but one maker; and every prince is both his lieutenant and his resemblance too. The excellency of any government consists in the natural firmness of its constitution, freeing it from the principles of dissolution. And the dissolution of government, as of most other things, proceeds chiefly from the internal fightings and conflicts of contrary parts. But now unity excludes contrariety, and that which is but one cannot disagree or jar with itself. It is multitude only that admits of the contests of particulars, and a commonwealth, where governors cannot govern themselves. That which like a worm eats out the very heart of government, is the emulation, the ambition, and the discord of the parties invested with it. But the supremacy placed in one cuts off all these: for no man is his own rival, no man envies himself, or designs to trip up his own heels, whatsoever he may chance to do.

And to shew the naturalness of monarchy, all other forms of government insensibly partake of it, and slide into it. For look upon any aristocracy or democracy, and still you shall find some one ruling active person amongst the rest, who does every thing, and carries all before him. Was not De Wit, amongst our neighbours, a kind of king in a commonwealth? And was not that usurper here amongst ourselves a monarch in reality of fact, before he wore the title or assumed the office? Moreover, when any commonwealth is forced to defend itself by war, it finds it necessary to appoint one general over all, 569as this very commonwealth found to its cost, and to make the conduct of its armies at least monarchical. Nay, the Romans themselves, in their greatest exigencies of state, had recourse to their dictatorship, which was a perfect monarchy for the time. And when they sent out their armies under the conduct of two consuls, yet those consuls were to command the whole army by turns, one one day, and another another; which was a tacit confession of the necessity of a single conduct for the right management of great affairs. And I think, upon a full survey of the Roman story, we may truly pronounce, that the greatest defeats that were ever given that common wealth, in any lasting war, have been from this, that the custom of shifting consuls every year hindered the conduct of the whole war from being continued in the hands of one experienced commander. In their wars with Hannibal, nothing is more manifest. From all which I infer, that kingly government is the most natural, excellent, and beneficial to society of all others: and that in every commonwealth, (in spite of its constitution,) there will be something of monarchy; and that if a republic ever achieves any thing great or considerable, it is still by virtue of something in it that is monarchical.

Secondly, The next thing is to shew, that the greatness or strength of a monarchy depends chiefly upon the personal qualifications of the prince or monarch. It ebbs or flows according to the rising or falling of his spirit. For still it is the person that makes the place considerable, and not the place him. And we shall find in every government, that the activity and bravery of the prince is the soul politic which animates and upholds all. When Alexander 570the Great died, the Grecian monarchy expired with him. He was both the emperor and the empire too. And after the death of Julius and Augustus Caesar, those great commanding souls, the Roman empire declined every day, falling into the hands of brutes and sots, who could scarce wield the weight of their own bellies, and much less the burden of such vast dominions. The present grandeur of the papacy is entirely owing to the prudence and governing arts of some of the popes; and it never suffered any great blow, but when a weak or a voluptuous person sat in the chair. And here amongst ourselves, both the protector and the new protectorship died in one man, though the name indeed survived a while in another; and it was quickly seen, how ridiculous it was for any one to attempt to succeed into his power, who could not succeed into his spirit.

But it is evident from reason, that the fate and fortune of governments must naturally follow the personal abilities of the governor: for what is there else, that the strength of a kingdom can be supposed to lean upon, but one of these three; its treasure, its military power, or its laws? But now, none of all these can signify any thing, where the prince is not endued with that royal skill that is requisite to the due management of them. For surely the bare image of a prince upon the coin of any nation can neither improve or employ the treasure of it; nor can the military force of a kingdom do much to strengthen it, should the prince either wear a pad lock upon his sword, or draw it in defence of his enemies. Nor lastly, can the laws much contribute to the support of it, if the execution of them be either 571neglected or discountenanced: for it is not how laws are made, nor how they are interpreted, but how they are used, that must influence the public. By all which we see what moment there is in the sole person of a prince. For as he is qualified or disposed, so all these great things become helpful or ineffectual. The treasure, arms, and laws of a nation are all virtually in him. And it is he who must breathe life and efficacy into them all. Which is the first great reason, why God extends such a particular providence over the persons of kings, namely, because the main concerns of civil government and society, which Providence so much tenders the preservation of, are principally deposited in them.

Secondly, The other great reason is, because princes have the most powerful influence upon the concerns of religion, and the preservation of the church, of all other persons whatsoever. Religion is indeed an immortal seed, and the church is proof against the very gates of hell, as being founded upon a promise, and so standing fast in the eternal strength of God’s veracity. Nevertheless, as to its outward state and circumstances in this world, it must clasp about the secular power, and as that frowns or smiles upon it, so it must droop or flourish. Accordingly God has declared kings to be nursing fathers of his church; and every prince, by the essential inherent right of his crown, is or should be a defender of the faith. He holds it by a charter from heaven; long before the pope’s donation, who never gives any thing to princes, but what was their own before. Every Christian king is within his own dominions the great pastor, both to rule Christ’s 572flock, and to see it fed, though he does not feed it himself.

We know how glorious a deliverance our church received this day; and it was by the wisdom of that head which wore the crown, that God vouchsafed it to her. King and church then, as it is seldom otherwise, were both designed to the same fate. But God preserved the king, and the king the church. And who knows but for such a day as this, God paved his way before him in such a peaceable entrance into the English throne, so much above and against the expectation of the world round about him, and of the court of Rome especially; which, it is well known, had other designs upon the anvil at that time. And as he then saved the church from perishing by one blow; so he afterwards supported it from dying gradually, either by the encroachments of superstition, or the attempts of innovation.

And it is observable, (which I speak not in flattery, but in a profound sense of a blessing which the whole kingdom can never be thankful enough for,) that none of the families that ever reigned over this nation, have to their power been so careful and tender of the church, kept their hands so clean from any thing that might look like sacrilege, been so zealous of its privileges, and so kind to its ministers, as the royal family that now sways the sceptre in the succession of three several princes. And I doubt not but as sacrilege has blasted the mightiest families with a curse, so the abhorrence of it will and must perpetuate a blessing upon this.

And thus having despatched the several heads at first proposed, and shewn upon what accounts the 573actings of God’s providence may be said to be extra ordinary; and by what ways and means this extra ordinary providence saves and delivers princes, as also the reasons why it does so; I proceed now to the

Fourth and last thing proposed: which is, to make some useful deductions from what has been delivered; and it shall be by way of information concerning two things.

First, The duty and behaviour of princes towards God.

Secondly, The duty and behaviour of subjects towards their prince.

First. And first for that of princes towards God. It shews them from whom, in their distress, they are to expect, and to whom, in their glory, they are to ascribe all their deliverances. David was as great a warrior and as valiant a prince as ever reigned. In all his wars success waited upon his courage, and victory did homage to his sword; yet he tells us, that he would neither trust in his sword nor in his bow, nor in the alliance of princes. All auxiliaries but those from above, he found weak, fickle, and fallacious. And as princes are to own their great Deliverer, so are they to shew the world that they do so, by setting a due estimate upon the deliverance; especially when it is shewn in so signal an instance as that which we now commemorate. And whosoever he is, who really and cordially values any notable deliverance vouchsafed him by God, surely above all things it will concern him, not to court the mischief from which he has been delivered. But,

Secondly, which most properly belongs to us, 574we learn from the premises the duty and behaviour of subjects towards their princes. Does not God, by such a protecting providence over kings, point out to us the sacredness of their persons; and command a reverence, where he himself thinks fit to place an honour? Does not every extraordinary deliverance of a prince carry this inscription upon it in the brightest characters, Touch not mine anointed? Whom God has placed upon the throne, shall any human power presume to drag to the bar? or shall royal heads be crowned and anointed only to prepare them to be sacrificed upon a scaffold?

As for our parts, when we reflect upon our prince, signalized by so many strange unparalleled rescues, ought they not both to endear him to our allegiance, and in a manner consecrate him to our veneration? For is not this he, whom in the loins of his royal progenitor, God, by this day’s mercy, as I may so say, delivered before he was born? he, for whose sake God has since wrought so many miracles; covering his head in the day of battle, and, which is more, securing it after battle, when such a price was set upon it? Is not this he, whom the same Providence followed into banishment, and gave him safety and honour, where he had not so much as to lay his head, or to set his foot upon, that he could call his own? Is not this he, whom God brought back again by a miracle as great as that by which he brought Israel out of Egypt, not dividing, but, as it were, drying up a Red sea before him? Is not this he, whom neither the plots of his enemies at home, nor the united strength of those abroad, have been able to shake or supplant? And lastly, is not this he, whom neither the barbarous injuries of his rebel 575subjects at home, nor the temptations of foreign princes abroad, nor all the arts of Rome besides, could in his greatest extremity bring over to the Romish profession; but that after all, he returned, and since his return still continues in the same communion which he was in when he went from us, Carolus a Carolo, firm and immoveable, like the son of a father, who could rather part with his crowns, kingdoms, and his very life, than quit his honour, or give up his religion?

For all which glorious things done for him and by him, may the same God, who has hitherto delivered him, order his affairs so, that he may never need another deliverance, but that he may grow old in peace and honour; and be as great as the love of his friends and the fears of his enemies can make him; commanding the hearts of the one, in spite of the hearts of the other; and, in a word, continue to reign over us, till mortality shall be swallowed up of immortality, and a temporal crown changed into an eternal.

Which God of his infinite mercy grant; to whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.

END OF VOL. II.


« Prev Sermon XXXVI. The peculiar care and concern of… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |