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SERMON LXXXIII.

[Preached on the 29th of May, 1693.}

THE DUTY AND REASON OF PRAYING FOR GOVERNORS.

I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications 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.—1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.

I NEED not tell any here, that this day is appointed, by authority, for an anniversary solemnity, in a grateful commemoration of the great mercy of God to these nations, in putting an end to the intestine wars and confusions of many years, in restoring to us our own ancient government and laws, and in bringing home, as upon this day, the rightful heir of these kingdoms, to the crown and throne of his fathers: and though the glory of this day hath been not a little sullied and obscured by many things which have happened since that time, fitter now to be buried in silence and oblivion, than to be mentioned and raked up; yet it hath pleased God, in scattering those black clouds, which not long since hung over us, to restore this day to its first lustre and brightness; so that we may now with great joy look back upon it, as designed by the wise providence of God, to make way for the happiness which we now enjoy under their present majesties, by whom, under God, we have been delivered from that terrible and imminent danger which 533threatened our religion and laws, and the very constitution itself of our ancient government. And to this occasion, no kind of argument can be more proper and suitable than that which the text affords to our consideration, in this injunction of St. Paul to Timothy, to take care that in the public worship of God, supplications and thanksgivings be put up to God, “for kings, and all that are in authority.” “I exhort, therefore,” &c.

In which words there are four things considerable.

First, The duty here enjoined, which is prayer, -expressed to us in several words, which seem to denote the several kinds or parts of prayer; “I exhort, therefore, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority,” &c. Some of these words are of a very near signification; and yet there seems some difference betwixt them, most probably this:

1. By δεήσεις, which we render supplications, is probably meant that part or kind of prayer, wherein we supplicate God for the pardon of our sins, and for the averting and removing of evils, whether temporal or spiritual, from ourselves or others.

2. By προσευχὰς, which we render prayers, seem to be meant petitions for blessings and good things from God; and these are most properly called prayers.

3. By ἐντεύξεις, seems to be particularly meant pleadings and intercessions on the behalf of others.

4. By εὐχαριστίας, is certainly intended praise and thanksgivings to God, for his blessings and goodness to ourselves and others. This seems to be the difference between them, which, whether it be exactly so or not, is not very material, since these are unquestionably the several kinds or parts of prayer. 534All these several sorts of prayer, St. Chrysostom, in his comment upon this text, tells us, were publicly used in his time, in the daily service of the church: “This (says he) all communicants do know is done every day, morning and evening; how that we pray for all the world, ‘for kings, and all that are in authority.’”

Secondly, For whom we are to pray; in general, “for all men.” Our prayers are one of the greatest and best expressions of our charity, and therefore ought to be as large and extensive as our charity is. We are bound in common charity to love all men, and to wish well to them; but our bare wishes signify nothing, unless we direct them to God, who is able to confer upon them the blessings and good things which we wish to them.

And this is a charity which God hath put into every man’s power, and which the poorest man in the world, as well as the richest, is capable of exercising at all times, and upon all occasions; for the ear of God is open to the prayers of the poor, as well as of the rich, and they are every whit as prevalent with him; nay, the Scripture seems to say, that God hath a more particular regard to the prayers of the poor. So that we may be liberal and bountiful in our prayers to those to whom we are able to give nothing else; and when our hands can not reach to relieve them, we may pour out our hearts to God for them; we may pray for their spiritual and temporal good, and we may praise God for the good which befals them, though it was out of our power to be any ways instrumental to procure it for them.

Thirdly, For whom we are more especially, and in the first place, to pray; viz. for those who have 535the greatest and most public influence of all others upon the peace and happiness of mankind, “for kings, and for all that are in authority;” that is, for the supreme magistrate, and for all inferior magistrates, who derive their power and authority from the supreme.

Government is necessary to the welfare of mankind, because it is the great band of human society, the guard of its peace, and the security of every man’s person and property; and, therefore, we are concerned, as much as is possible, both to pray for our governors, and to bless God for them; because without them we should be in a most wretched condition. Mankind would be unavoidably miserable without government; human society would presently disband, and all things would run into confusion. It is a remarkable saying of one of the Jewish masters, “pray for the happiness of the kingdom or government; for if it were not for the fear of that, men would devour one another alive.” And Josephus tells us, that “when the Jews were made subject to the Romans (though it was by conquest) twice a day they offered up sacrifices for the life and safety of the emperor.” And this was very agreeable to what God had commanded that people by his prophet, in a much like case, when the Jews were conquered by the King of Babylon, and carried away captives (Jer. xxix. 7.) “Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” And surely the reason is much stronger why we should pray for our natural princes and governors. I come now to the

Fourth and last thing considered in the text, and 536which I principally design to speak to; namely, the reason or argument which the apostle uses, to engage us to pray for our princes, and for all that are in authority; “that we may live a quiet and peace able life, in all godliness and honesty.” The manifold benefits and advantages which redound to us from our governors, is a sufficient argument why we should pray to God for them, and praise him likewise for so great a blessing, and that in the first place: “I exhort, therefore, first of all,” (saith the apostle) &c. Now the apostle here in the text expresseth two great advantages of government, which upon the matter do comprehend all the rest.

1. That by government we are secured in our civil rights and interests, in the quiet and peaceable possession of what is our own.

2. That we may thereby be protected in the free practice and exercise of religion and virtue.

These are the two greatest and most desirable things to man; and neither of these can be had without government. I shall briefly consider these two particulars, and then endeavour to shew, what obligation the consideration of them lays upon us, both to pray to God in the behalf of our princes and governors, and likewise to praise God for them: and then I shall conclude all with a brief application of this whole discourse to the solemn occasion of this day.

First, I shall begin with the benefits and advantages of government mentioned in the text, namely, these two:

1. That by it we are secured in our civil rights and interests, in the quiet and peaceable possession of what is our own.

Without government there could be no such thing 537as property in any thing beyond our own persons; for nothing but laws can make property, and laws are the effect of government and authority: nay, without government, we have no security of our persons and lives, much less of any thing that be longs to us, and is at present in our possession. Were we not protected by Jaws (which are the effect of government) we could have no safety, no quiet enjoyment of any thing; but every man must be perpetually upon his guard against all the world, and exposed to continual violence and injuries from those, who are too many and too strong for him; so that all our quiet and security from fear and danger, from the fraud and oppression of those who are more crafty and powerful than ourselves, from end less confusions and distractions, and from a state of perpetual feud and war with all mankind, is entirely due and owing to civil government.

And this alone is so unspeakable a benefit, that without it, men, of all creatures, would be the most miserable; because all that wit and sagacity, all that cunning and contrivance, which mankind hath above the brute creatures, would but enable them to do so much the more mischief to one another, and to devise and find out more powerful and effectual means and instruments to harm and destroy one another.

In short, that we live, and that we live well, in any tolerable condition either of safety or plenty, and that we are able to call any thing our own for one day, or for one hour; that we are not in perpetual terror and apprehension of mortal dangers, and that we are at any time free from the invasion of what we at present possess, by the fraud and force of others, is solely the effect of this great blessing and Divine appointment of government, to preserve 538the peace of human society, and by wise and wholesome laws, to tie up men’s hands from mutual injuries and violence. Upon this all the comfort and all the security of human laws does depend. From hence it comes to pass (that, as the Scripture expresseth it,) we may “sit down every man under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree,” and that there shall be none “to make us afraid.” So that if security is necessary to the comfort and happiness of mankind; then government is so too: for without this, the societies of men would presently dissolve and fall in pieces, and all things would run into confusion and disorder.

2. Another great benefit which may reasonably be expected from government (though it does not always so happen) is, that men are protected by it in the free exercise and practice of religion and virtue. Therefore we should pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority, (says the apostle) that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty;” that is, in the practice of piety and devotion towards God; of sobriety and temperance in regard to ourselves, and of justice and charity toward all men.

It is true, indeed, (and so the apostles and first Christians found it by experience) that the edge and authority of laws may be, and sometimes is, turned upon the true religion, and the sincere professors of it: but even then, though good men may receive great harms and injuries from persecuting princes and governors \;as the primitive Christians did from several of the Roman emperors); yet then it so happens, that good men have some considerable benefit and protection from the civil government and laws, being for the most part preserved from the fury 539and rage of the multitude; so that, though particular persons undergo the trial of cruel sufferings, yet much greater numbers do escape and are preserved.

And which is very considerable in this matter, against several of the main and essential parts of religion, there never were any human laws made; as against inward love, honour and reverence of Almighty God, and the worshipping him in our hearts, and in secret; of this great part of religion human laws can make no cognizance: nay, farther yet, against humility and meekness, against modesty and patience, against temperance and chastity, against peaceableness and obedience to government, against justice and gratitude, against charity and forgiveness of injuries, against these and such-like virtues, the apostle has told us, there is no law. Against the practice of these (without some of which government could not possibly subsist) no persecution was ever raised, no, not by the worst of governors! on the contrary, in the practice of these virtues, good men have been in all ages and times protected by law.

It is true, indeed, that good men have many times been grievously persecuted by the civil government and authority, for the external profession of revealed religion; which was the case of the Christians at that time, when the apostle commanded them to pray for kings, and all that were in authority; that, under their protection, they might lead quiet and peaceable lives, “in all godliness and honesty.” St. Paul knew very well, when he gave this injunction to them, that supplications and prayers be made for kings, “and for all that are in authority,” that the powers of the world did not at that time favour 540Christianity; but he knew, likewise, that government was necessary to the happiness of mankind, and that Christians, even in that state of persecution, did enjoy many considerable benefits and advantages by it, so that they were not perpetually exposed to popular rage and cruelty, and the violence of wicked and unreasonable men; which would not only have hindered the progress of Christianity, but would in a short time have endangered the extinguishing of it. Besides that, by the favour and protection of government, the Christians had many considerable intervals of peace and ease, which gave Christianity a breathing time, and opportunity to recover itself; and though the secular authority did for a long time discountenance Christianity, and keep it under hatches; that was but an accidental effect and abuse of government, and obedience was still due, and prayers for it so much the more necessary, yea, and thanksgivings to God for it very reasonable, upon account of the common benefits and advantages of it to human society.

Besides that, Christians did hope and believe, that the civil government might in time be gained to give its countenance and assistance to Christianity, and that kings and princes might become nursing fathers to the church, as was expressly foretold by the prophets, and afterwards in God’s due time was remarkably accomplished. In the mean time, Christians were patiently to obey and suffer, in expectation of those glorious rewards in another world, which were promised to their faith and patience; and to pray for the powers that persecuted them, that they also might be brought to the acknowledgment of the truth, and might use that power which God had committed to them for the protection of 541truth and innocency, and for the continuance and support of the true religion; which, blessed be God, was afterwards the case of Christianity for several ages. I proceed, in the

Second place, To shew what obligation the consideration of the mighty benefits and advantages of government lays upon us, both to pray to God on the behalf of princes and governors, and likewise to praise God for them.

Because in their welfare and prosperity the public peace and happiness doth chiefly consist, and in the public good consists the good of particular persons; and, above all, the piety and goodness of princes and magistrates (especially those who are in the highest place of authority) have a general good influence upon the manners of men, both for the discountenancing of wickedness and vice, and for the encouragement of religion and virtue, which are the main pillars and foundation of public peace and prosperity. A king sitting “in the throne of judgment (saith Solomon, Prov. xx. 8.) scattereth away all evil with his eyes.” The pattern of a religious and good prince is a living law to his subjects, and more than the example of ten thousand others, to mould and fashion the manners of the people to a conformity to it.

Besides that, there is (as one expresseth it) a kind of moral connexion and communication of evil and of guilt betwixt princes and people, so that they are many times mutually rewarded for the virtues and good actions, and punished for the sins and faults, of one another. Of which proceedings of the Divine justice towards the people of Israel, there are many remarkable instances in Scripture, where God rewarded the piety of good princes with great blessings 542upon their people, and punished the personal faults of their kings with public judgments upon the whole nation. So that in truth it is the greatest kindness and charity to ourselves, to pray for our princes and governors; because our welfare is involved in theirs, and we suffer not only in all the misfortunes and calamities which befal them, but many times upon account of their personal faults and miscarriages. Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur achivi—the extravagances of princes are punished in the misfortunes of their subjects. Thus David (otherwise a very good king) sinned in numbering the people, and the plague fell upon them; he was punished in the calamity of his people. And this was in no wise unjust, because there are always sins enough in any nation to deserve punishment, and God may take what occasion he pleases, to send his judgments upon them that deserve them; for princes and people make but one civil and political body, and what part of it soever is punished, the other suffers. And this is the true ground and reason of the communication of punishments betwixt princes and people.

Another consideration which should engage us to pray for those that are in authority, is, that we reap the great benefit of their care, and pains, and vigilancy for us—under their shadow we are safe. Our innocency and our rights are protected by their power and laws, and by the just punishments which they inflict upon evil-doers, and upon those who go about to violate our rights in any kind; so that we ought to pray and to praise God for them, as our great benefactors, and the chief instruments of our security and welfare; and therefore not only in duty, but in justice and gratitude, we are bound to 543wish all good to them, and to intercede with God for them, for the peace and prosperity of their government, and to bless God on their behalf: yea, we ought to do this out of love to ourselves; because their good and prosperity is our’s, their goodness and righteousness, their personal piety and virtues extend to us, and have a mighty influence upon us, to excite and encourage us to follow their good example, and to “go and do likewise.”

And we ought likewise to do this out of charity and compassion to our princes and governors, whose condition is in truth rather to be pitied and envied, and whose high place and dignity is much more to be dreaded than desired by a wise man, considering how heavy a burden they sustain, what dangers they are continually exposed to, what cares, and troubles, and censures, they daily undergo for our safety and ease. So that, whatever ambitious and inconsiderate men may think, wise men do certainly know and find by experience, that to discharge with care and faithfulness all the parts of a good governor, is a very difficult and troublesome province. Inferior magistrates find care and trouble enough, in that small share and part of it which they sustain; and, if so, then certainly the care and concernment of the whole must needs be a heavy burden indeed; and what abilities are sufficient for it what shoulders are strong enough to stand under it?

And as upon this account they have the greatest need of our prayers for God’s direction and assistance in the discharge of their high office, so likewise for his powerful grace to preserve them from sin and evil, in the midst of those manifold temptations to which they are continually exposed, in appearance much beyond other men, from the height of 544their condition, to pride and insolency, to injustice and oppression; from the abundance of all things, which minister to luxury and excess, and from the officious servility of parasites and flatterers, who soothe them in their faults, and humour them in their passions, and comply with their corrupt and vicious inclinations, and are always ready at hand, and for ward instruments to execute their commands, and to serve their lusts and vices.

And, as princes greatly need our prayers upon these accounts; so it is just matter of praise and thankfulness to God, when a nation hath wise, just, and good princes, who lay to heart the interest of their people, and endeavour by all the wise methods and honest arts of government, effectually to procure it; who, by their authority and due execution of the law, do discountenance, and, as much as in them lies, restrain wickedness and vice; and by their own example encourage virtue and piety in their subjects; and thereby invite, and even provoke them to the like practices: the life of a good prince is a kind of public censure of ill manners, and reproof of wicked practices. And I do not know, whether there be a more delightful sight on this side heaven, than to see those, who are in eminent place and power, even if they might do whatever they would, yet continually choosing to do what they ought; as if their power were so far from being a temptation to them to do evil, that, on the contrary, the consideration of it is one of the best and strong est arguments to restrain them from it.

Weak minds are apt to measure their liberty by their power, and to think, that the higher and greater they are, so much the greater privilege they have to be more extravagantly bad than others; but, if the 545matter be really considered, the argument runs the other way; and he that reasons wisely, will certainly conclude with Tully—In maxima quaque fortuna minimum licere: that “they who are in the highest station and greatest power, have, of all others, the least liberty to do what they list.” Their power, supposing it never so uncontrollable and unaccountable, would be so far from being in reason a temptation to them to do what they ought not, that in truth it would set them above the temptation of doing any ill thing; because they would stand in awe of no body, and there would be nothing that could hinder them from doing what is best, if they had a mind to it; and every one ought to have such a mind: and nothing can be more misbecoming, and more directly contrary to the nature of their office, and the power wherewith they are entrusted, than to give an example of breaking those laws, which they are to see put in execution.

God himself, because he hath all power, is therefore all goodness, and is therefore “holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works,” according to the reasoning of the author of the book of Wisdom, who argues thus with God: “It is not (says he) agreeable with thy power to condemn him that hath not deserved to be punished;” that is, it is not agreeable with infinite power, to do any thing that is unjust; “for thy power (saith he to God) is the beginning of righteousness, and because thou art the Lord of all, it maketh thee to be gracious unto all.” Infinite power is the foundation and principle of goodness and righteousness, and all-powerful being is good and righteous, not only from choice, but from a necessity of nature.

And this is the true ground and reason of that 546saying of St. James, that “God cannot be tempted with evil,” because his infinite power sets him above all temptation to it: for what reason can be imagined, why he that hath all power, shall have any inclination to be otherwise than good? What can tempt him thereto, since he that hath all power can neither have any hopes of being greater than he is, nor any fear of becoming less? And all temptation is founded either in hope or fear; and where neither of these can have any place, there can be no occasion, no possible motive or temptation to evil; for to be evil, and to do evil, is always an effect of weakness and want of power.

The sum of what I have said upon this argument, and the design indeed of it, is to shew, that the greater power and authority any one hath, the less liberty he hath to do any thing that is bad. And I have been the larger upon this, because I would fain imprint upon the minds of persons, whom the providence of God hath invested with great power and authority, that, as they have great opportunities of doing more good than others, so they have greater reason, and more advantages of doing it, and are more inexcusable if they do any thing that is bad; not only because their actions are of a more public influence and observation; but because their temptations to evil, how great soever they may seem to be, are in truth and reality much less than other men s. Happy are those princes that wisely consider this, and make their power and authority over others an argument to be so much better themselves, and to do so much more good to others; and because they are less subject to the coercive power of law, do for that reason think themselves so much the more obliged to be a law to themselves. Blessed 547be God for the happiness which we enjoy in this respect; and let us earnestly beseech him, that he would be pleased to bestow such a plentiful mea sure of his grace and Holy Spirit on our most gracious king and queen, as may effectually both engage and enable them to use their power to the best purposes for the public good.

And thus I have briefly gone over, and explained to you, the several particulars in the text: the duty of prayer here enjoined; for whom we are to pray, in general for all men; and for whom more especially, and, in the first place, “for kings, and all that are in authority;” and upon what considerations we are to pray for them; and to praise God in their behalf, because of the great benefits we receive by them, and because, both in respect of the dangers and difficulties of their condition, they stand in need of our prayers above other men; besides that in praying for their welfare and prosperity, we pray for our own peace and happiness.

And now to apply this to ourselves, and to the occasion of this day. By all that hath been said, we cannot but be convinced what cause we have to bless God for that happy government which we live under, that excellent constitution, under the gentle influences whereof we enjoy more liberty, more plenty, and more security from all manner of injury and oppression, than any nation this day on the face of the earth. Therefore, with what thank fulness should we this day commemorate the happy restoration of this government to us, after the miserable distractions and confusions of twenty years, by the restoration and return of our banished sovereign, in so peaceable, and yet so wonderful a manner, 548that a remembrance of it, even at this distance, is almost still matter of amazement to us!

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who alone doth wondrous things.”

And with our joyful praises let us join our most devout and fervent prayers to Almighty God, for the king’s and queen’s majesties, and for all that are in authority. And I may truly say, that there was hardly ever greater reason and occasion for it, from both our distractions at home, and our dangers from abroad; never was there greater need of our earnest supplications and prayers, than at this time, when our armies and fleets are in motion, and when God seems already to have given us some earnest of good success:—blessed be his great and glorious name!

We have indeed a great army, and a more powerful fleet, than ever this nation sent forth; but unless God be on our side, and favour our cause, in vain are all our preparations; for whenever his providence is pleased to interpose, “by strength shall no man prevail.” Have we not reason then to cry mightily unto God, when the only strength of the nation is at stake, when our sins and provocations are so many and great, and there lies so heavy a load of guilt upon us? when the person of his sacred majesty is exposed to so much hazard, not only in the high places of the field, but from the restless attempts of the malicious and implacable enemies of our peace and religion, that he would be graciously pleased to go forth with our armies and fleets, and not remember our iniquities against us, but save us for his mercies sake?

We are too apt to murmur and complain of miscarriages, and the ill management of affairs; but 549surely the best thing we can do, and that which best becomes us, is to look forward, and to turn our censures of our governors and their actions into humble supplications to God in their behalf, and in behalf of the whole nation; “that he would be pleased to turn us every one from the evil of our ways, that he may return to us, and have mercy on us, that so iniquity may not be our ruin; that he may rejoice over us to do us good, and may at last think thoughts of peace towards us, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give us an expected end of our troubles.”

Let us then betake ourselves to the proper work of this day, hearty prayers and thanksgivings to Almighty God for the king and queen, and for all that are in authority; that as he hath been pleased by a wonderful providence to rescue us from the imminent danger we were in, and from all our fears, by the happy advancement of their majesties to the throne of these kingdoms; so he would of his infinite goodness still preserve and continue to us this light of our eyes, and breath of our nostrils, princes of that great clemency and goodness, which render them the true representatives of God upon earth, and the most gracious governors of men.

And let us earnestly beseech him, that he would confirm and strengthen them in all goodness, and make them wise as angels of God, to discern betwixt good and evil, that they may know how to go in and out before this great people; that he would give them the united affections of their people, and a heart to study and seek their good all the days of their lives.

And, finally, That he would be pleased to continue so great a blessing to us, and to grant them a long and prosperous reign over us: and that their 550posterity in this royal family may endure for ever, and their throne as the days of heaven; that under them the people of these nations, we and the generations to come, may lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty; for his mercies sake in Jesus Christ, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, dominion and power, now and for ever. Amen.

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