Page images

because some through false Teachers have been miserably deceived ?

But the strongest Objections lie against the Use of Correction in Matters of Religion. All are so sensible of the Necessity of Punishments to preserve the Peace and Order of the World, and to protect the Innocent against the Violence of Sinners, that the Magistrate is allowed on all hands a Right to punish all Crimes which are prejudicial to the Public, or to the Interest of private Men. A Concession this not to be despised in Behalf of Religion; for our Duty to God does fo concur in all things with our Duty to our Neighbour, that he who punishes Offences and Injuries offered to Men, will undoubtedly so far punifh Vice and Immorality. And this Concession being made, the Plea for excluding the Magistrate from Matters of Religion can only affect such Cases where the Honour of God alone is concerned; for all Offences against Men are allowed to be punished. There remain only then the Offences against God to be exempted from the Terrors of this World ; such as Profaneness, Impiety, and the like; upon which they think there ought to be no Restraint from the Magistrate.


The great Reason assigned for all this is, that Punishments inflicted by the temporal Power cannot make Men religious ; they can only constrain Men to a Compliance with the Law in their outward Behaviour, but cannot reach to the purifying their Hearts and Consciences, in the Clearness and Integrity of which the Virtue of Religion does consist.

But it ought, in the first place, to be con: fidered, that such Impiety is truly prejudicial to the Public, as it tends, by the Contagion of ill Example, to corrupt the Members of the Commonwealth. The Reverence Men have for God, is the very best Foundation of Obedience to temporal Governors: This makes them willing to discharge their Duty faithfully to the Public, and to private Men. Take

away this Reverence and Regard for God, and few will see any Reason to obey the Laws of Man any farther than is necessary to their own Security. But what an Alteration would it make in a Government, were the Subjects, instead of being willing to obey, to lay hold on all Opportunities of offending with Impunity? No Vigilance of the Magistrate could be sufficient to restrain the Iniquity of Multitudes inclined to do Vol. IV,



Evil. Whoever therefore makes way for this Corruption, of Manners, so prejudicial to the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind, is liable to Punishment even as an Enemy to the State; and the Concession made the Magistrate to punish Offences against the Public, will entitle him to inflict Vengeance upon those who openly affront the Majesty of God, either by denying his Being, or his Government of the World. i But, secondly, it is want of the Knowledge of human Nature, which leads Men' to make this Objection: For though it is very true, that the Sinner, who abstains from Vice or Immorality merely out of the Fear of temporal Punishment, cannot be faid to act upon a religious Principle in so doing, or to render an acceptable Service to God; yet we must consider not only the immediate Influence which Punishments have, but the Consequence which they are naturally apt to produce. If you keep a Sinner from Vice through Fear at first, it will by degrees grow habitual to him to do well; his Relish for Vice will abate, and by the Length of Practice he will come to take Pleasure in Virtue, how. uneasy soever it might fit upon himn at first; and whenever this Change is


effected, the Man is truly religious : For what is a religious Disposition, unless this, to take Pleasure in doing well? This happy Change often proceeds from less happy Beginnings. We see in Children every Day, that their Propenfity to fome Vices is' by degrees wholly removed by the watchful Eye and Hand of a good Parent; and we may obferve the same Effect in Men from like Caufes. And will you say, that when a Man is grown to be habitually virtuous, that he has no true Religion in him, becaufe he was at first reclaimed from Vice by temporal Fears? If not, you must allow that these Fears are not deftructive of Religion.

But I have said enough to Thew, and also to justify the Means necessary to be used in discharging the Duty-recommended in the Text. And I shall apply myself, in what remains, to exhort every Man to do Riš Part, and to make all, as far as his Influence reaches, keep the Way of the Lord, and do Justice and Judgment.

otty The Magistrate is, in the first place, concerned to be watchful over the Manners of the People, and to be jealous for the Honour of God. In this confifts the Stability of Nations; for, Righteousness exalteth a Nation, Сс 2



but Sin is the Reproach of the People. This
Case descends from the supreme Head of
Justice to every Officer of the Kingdom, in
Proportion to the Power communicated to
him; and every Magistrate, who connives
at open Impiety, iş false both to God and
the King. But I shall press this Part of
the Exhortation po farthes, which may per-
haps concern but very few in this place.
But giye me leave to add under this Head,
that private Men, who are vested with no
Part of the public Authority, are capable of
doing great Service even by shewing them-
felves pleased that others should do their
Duty. It is a great Discouragement to Ma-
gistrates, when they have not only the Vio-
Jence of Sinners to contend with, but also
the Resentments and Indignation of the Inno-
cent. A Consideration that ought to be ma-
turely weighed, in an Age that is not, I
sure, too good to stand in need of Refor-

Next to the Magistrate, the chief Care of Virtue and Religion lies upon Fathers and Masters of Families. The Kingdom is one great Family, and it is made up of the small ones; and if due Care be taken in private Familjes for the Government and Instruction



« PreviousContinue »